Viewing cable 07MANAMA518

07MANAMA5182007-06-07 13:09:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manama
DE RUEHMK #0518/01 1581309
O 071309Z JUN 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAMA 000518 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/05/2017 
Classified By: Ambassador William T. Monroe for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
¶1.  (C) Two Shia Bahrainis were reportedly beaten by security 
personnel following their detention at a May 21 rally.  The 
families of both men tried to locate them but were not 
informed of their whereabouts until May 29, when they were 
invited to visit the men at the Bahrain Defense Force 
hospital.  In a statement to the press, a Ministry of 
Interior official said that one of the injured men was hurt 
by a fall to the ground and stones thrown by protesters. 
Human Rights Watch issued an open letter May 31 calling on 
King Hamad to form an independent committee to investigate 
the incident.  Human rights and political activists expressed 
their belief that security personnel have a new policy of 
using increased force against demonstrators.  Separating fact 
from fiction is difficult in a case like this, but the lack 
of transparency from the government and the eight-day 
incommunicado detention raise legitimate questions.  End 
Two Protesters Reportedly Beaten 
¶2.  (U) According to press reports and a statement by Human 
Rights Watch, two Shia Bahrainis, Ali Saeed Al Khabaz (age 
22) and Hameed Yousif Ahmed (age 46), were beaten by Bahraini 
security forces following their detention at an illegal 
demonstration on May 21 in the village of Sanabis.  A photo 
said to be of Al Khabaz shows swelling and bruising on his 
face and head.  Ahmed is reportedly suffering from a broken 
jaw and other injuries. 
¶3.  (U) The two were picked up by riot police the night of 
May 21 in Sanabis following a rally protesting police 
intervention in a demonstration the night before (reftel). 
According to family members, the two were beaten by police at 
the site of the protest and in nearby locations after their 
detention.  The families of both men tried unsuccessfully to 
locate them at hospitals and police stations, and on May 29 
Interior Ministry officials informed the families that they 
were being held at the Bahrain Defense Force hospital.  Al 
Khabaz's family visited both men the same day.  On May 30, 
the Ministry prohibited any further visits and late that 
night moved them to the Manama police station.  According to 
a May 30 report in Al Wasat newspaper, an Interior Ministry 
official said that a fall to the ground caused Al Khabaz's 
injuries.  He is said to have resisted arrest and suffered 
injuries from stones thrown by protesters.  The spokesman 
said the police had not treated Al Khabaz inhumanely. 
¶4.  (U) Human Rights Watch Executive Director for the Middle 
East and North Africa division Sarah Leah Whitson issued an 
open letter to King Hamad May 31 recounting the events and 
urging the formation of an independent counsel or commission 
to investigate "allegations of severe beating, possibly 
amounting to torture" by police.  Deputy Middle East Director 
Joe Stork was quoted in a separate AP article saying, 
"Bahrain's response will show whether King Hamad's promises 
of human rights reforms and rule of law have any meaning." 
All aspects of the story, including the Human Rights Watch 
letter, feature prominently on the website of the Bahrain 
Freedom Movement, a London-based Shia opposition group 
fiercely opposed to the Al Khalifa regime. A Bahraini 
newspaper reported June 7 that Shia opposition political 
society Al Wifaq secretary general Shaikh Ali Salman met with 
Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa the 
previous day to discuss the situation.  "Informed sources" 
said the meeting went well and is expected to have a positive 
impact on the cases. 
Extensive Injuries, Per Victim's Brother 
¶5.  (C) Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) deputy secretary 
general Abdullah Al Dirazi told PolOff that his organization 
had not been able to visit Al Khabaz in the hospital, but Al 
Dirazi had spoken with Al Khabaz's brother, who had seen him. 
 The brother said that Al Khabaz's injuries were extensive, 
that he had been beaten and kicked all over his body.  BHRS 
has sent an official letter to the public prosecutor 
requesting to visit Al Khabaz and Ahmed in jail, but they 
MANAMA 00000518  002 OF 002 
have not yet received a response.  Al Dirazi thinks the MOI 
has a new policy of using increased force against protesters. 
 Police are quick to act, and do not try to defuse the 
situation through other means.  He believes riot police are 
being more provocative, resulting in an escalating situation 
of violence and counter-violence. 
¶6.  (C) BHRS official Abdul Nabi Al Ekry said that he had 
visited Ahmed at the BDF hospital.  He did not see Al Khabaz. 
 Al Ekry said that riot police had employed "heavy handed" 
tactics for some time, and this incident comes as a result of 
that policy.  There had been expectations that relations 
between the police and Shia community would improve following 
the creation of unarmed "community police" personnel drawn 
from the local population and initiatives to promote dialogue 
between Interior officials and local leaders, but he said 
that nothing had really changed.  In his view, the MOI 
considers any group gathering without proper licenses as 
unauthorized and should be "treated harshly with excessive 
force."  No attempts are made to mediate a peaceful 
resolution to confrontations, he complained. 
Police Crack Down on Protesters 
¶7.  (C) In the view of secular opposition political society 
Al Waad president Ibrahim Sharif, the Interior Ministry has a 
new policy of cracking down on demonstrations.  The police do 
not want to detain people, he said, they want to inflict 
injuries and present a show of force.  Arrests and detentions 
only lead to more protests, something the government wants to 
avoid.  Citing the case of a May 19 rally in which he was 
injured by a rubber bullet and a tear gas canister, he said 
it is true that many of the demonstrations are not legal, but 
the law is unjust.  If a demonstration is inside a village 
and is not obstructing traffic or business interests, why 
should the police intervene, he asked. 
¶8.  (C) Former Shia MP Mohammed Al Shaikh echoed Sharif's 
comments, saying that police want to bring pressure to bear 
on the Shia community, and so they are being aggressive.  He 
commented that the Interior Ministry wants to compensate for 
the leniency of the King (in recently ordering the case 
against three Shia activists be dropped) and spread fear and 
send a strong message to demonstrators.  He mentioned that Al 
Khabaz and Ahmed are associated with the hardline Shia Haq 
Movement, which seeks to use confrontations with the police 
to draw public attention and support.  He said that Al Khabaz 
is the nephew of Haq Movement deputy secretary general Abdul 
Jalil Singace, and he may have been targeted because of his 
family connection.  (Note:  No one else has mentioned this 
reported relationship.)  Al Wifaq advisory council member 
Nizar Al Qari said the police are engaging in "collective 
punishment."  They allow themselves to be attacked, Qari 
claimed, and then react with excessive force. 
¶9.  (U) In perhaps another example of the perceived MOI 
zero-tolerance policy, riot police broke up an illegal 
gathering in the fishing village of Malkiya June 2. 
Residents were protesting illegal fish traps in the sea 
belonging to an "influential citizen."  (Note:  A senior 
member of the Al Khalifa family.)  According to observers, 
the situation went suddenly out of control, with police using 
tear gas and rubber bullets against demonstrators who threw 
stones and Molotov cocktails.  Police reportedly randomly 
smashed parked vehicles with their batons in the vicinity of 
the protest.  Residents intend to demonstrate again this 
coming weekend. 
¶10.  (C) It is very difficult to sort fact from fiction in a 
case like this.  Everyone who discusses the incident has a 
stake in convincing the listener of his own point of view. 
But the lack of transparency from the government and the 
eight-day period of incommunicado detention raise legitimate 
questions.  The Embassy will continue to follow up with 
government and civil society contacts. 
********************************************* ******** 
Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: 
********************************************* ********