(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The Bahraini authorities must immediately investigate the death in custody of a 19-year-old man who was shot in the head by security forces, said Amnesty International.
“Bahrain’s authorities must come clean and open a full, independent investigation to establish the truth about the death of Fadel Abbas. Those responsible for his death must be held to account,” said Said Boumedouha, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program.
“The conflicting information that has emerged over the version of events that led to his death makes such an investigation even more urgent.”
Abbas was wounded when security forces tried to arrest him and others as they went to visit a recently released prisoner in the village of Markh.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement on Jan. 26 that Abbas had died of his wounds after he was shot on Jan. 8 when he “purposefully” drove a car into members of the security forces as he attempted to escape arrest for smuggling arms and explosives. The Ministry said its forces had acted in self-defense.
Human rights activists, who published pictures of the body of Abbas, said that he sustained bullet injuries in the head and wounds to the leg during a violent altercation with the security forces.
Abbas’s family was also not told he had been arrested when they asked police about him after he went missing.
Abbas’s mother said that the Criminal Investigation Directorate had contacted her on Jan. 26 to inform her of her son’s death. Prior to this the family said they were not given any information about his whereabouts or medical condition and were not allowed to visit him in hospital. The Interior Ministry has stated that Abbas’s family was allowed access to him Jan. 13.
The killing of Abbas has triggered protests in the village of Diraz, west of the capital Manama where his funeral was held. Police fired tear gas and gunshots as they clashed with protesters after the funeral.
“The latest protests show that there remains a deep lack of trust in information issued by the authorities. Such mistrust is largely due to the authorities’ unwillingness and abject failure so far to adequately address abuses by its security forces and provide justice for those who have died,” said Boumedouha.
Since anti-government protests erupted in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, a number of low ranking police officers have been tried over the deadly crackdown on protester. However they have either been acquitted or given sentences that do not match the seriousness of their alleged offences.
The authorities have yet to implement a number of key recommendations made in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, including carrying out investigations into killings by the security force during the uprising.
Demonstrations have continued to take place regularly outside of Manama calling for human rights and political reform.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million members in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.