Bahrain: security forces seal off Pearl Square on protest anniversary

Security forces in Bahrain fired tear-gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades at protesters gathered on the eve of the first anniversary of the start of pro-democracy demonstrations Feb. 13. Protesters tried to gain control of the Pearl Roundabout in the capital, Manama—the focal point of last year’s movement. Riot police pushed them back at a perimeter some two kilometers from the square. Thousands of riot police and other security forces have been deployed across the kingdom. At least 60 people have been killed in protests over the last year. (BBC News, Feb. 13)

On the protest anniversary, Amnesty International issued a report charging that Bahrain’s government has failed to implement human rights reforms demanded by an independent commission which investigated the brutal crackdown last year. “The Bahraini government remains far from delivering the human rights changes” recommended by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), Amnesty said in a statement.

Despite several government announcements claiming progress, “the fact is that it has still not delivered in the most important areas,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, the group’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Victims and families of victims…are still waiting for justice.”

The rights group called on Bahraini authorities “to allow peaceful protests” on the anniversary of the uprising. It noted that the BICI found that at least five detainees were tortured to death while in custody last year. A 15-year-old girl died on Dec. 31 after being hit on the head by a tear-gas canister in a Shiiite town. The government claims that 48 members of the security forces had been investigated for rights abuses during the protests. But according to Amnesty, “only eight policemen…are known to have been brought to trial” so far. (Middle East Online, Feb. 13)

See our last posts on Bahrain and the Arab revolutions.