Three Bahraini Interior Ministry officers will face murder charges for allegedly shooting and killing demonstrators at close range during protests that have gripped the small Gulf kingdom for the past year.
The officers face charges in relation to the deaths of Ali Ahmed Abdulla, Isa Abdul Hassan and Hani Abdulaziz Goma. The trial is scheduled for 10 July, according to a Bahraini Information Affairs Authority (IAA) press release issued on Tuesday.
The officers were originally being tried for manslaughter but the charges were altered to murder after further investigations showed that the victims were fired at from close range. Since the officers are employees of the Ministry of Interior, they could be punished with the toughest penalties allowed by the law.
The three killings happened in February and March 2011, when protests erupted in Bahrain and demonstrators demanded political reforms and the removal of the Bahraini king.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) said yesterday “Bahraini authorities should immediately end the use of security forces to unlawfully attack peaceful protesters.” In reference to the latest security crackdown on a protest made up of about 20 to 30 peaceful protesters, held on 22 June.
In mid March 2011, after a month of instability, Peninsula Shield Forces (PSF) entered Bahrain to quell protesters at the request of the Bahraini government.
The PSF is the military branch of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and is responsible for protecting any of the six member states.
Most of the PSF troops that entered Bahrain were from Saudi Arabia, although some were from the United Arab Emirates.
Bahrain is a small island country with a population of approximately 1.2 million people. It is also a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a six member council that includes both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia, which is connected to Bahrain by a causeway, has a very large economic stake in Bahrain. Seventy percent of the small nation’s revenue comes from the Abu Safa oil field in Saudi Arabia, according to Reuters.
According to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report issued in November 2011, 46 people died in the uprising with more than 550 documented allegations of torture including beating, hanging and electrocution.
There are currently 500 prisoners of conscience in Bahrain as of November 2011, according to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
Following the BICI report, the Bahraini government said last Tuesday that it would pay compensation to the families of 17 people who died in the uprising.
Following the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia in 2011, Bahrainis took to the streets on 14 February demanding similar reforms.
Demonstrators were met with a violent crackdown by security forces.
The protesters were fired at with live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas.
Bahrain’s king, the Sunni King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa is said to have created political reforms in the country since he ruled the kingdom in 1999. However, the Shia population of Bahrain, which is estimated to be around 70 percent of the Bahraini population, faces increased disenfranchisement by the Sunni minority.
In a separate development, Bahraini civil rights activist, Nabil Rajab, was released from jail yesterday after he was arrested on June 6 for publicly insulting Sunnis on Twitter.