14 Sep 2011

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights condemns the acts of systematic vandalism and robbery at gunpoint committed by the Bahraini security forces and army against pro-democracy protesters. Hundreds of thousands dinars in cash and valuable items have been robbed during home raids and at checkpoints. Hundreds of houses and cars have been vandalized in an attempt by Bahrain’s regime to silence protesters and suppress the pro-democracy movement.

Background

On February 14, a peaceful movement began in Bahrain calling for democracy, freedom and political reform where protesters took to the Pearl roundabout (also known as Lulu roundabout) in the center of the capital Manama, as a spot for protesting. Rather than having their demands met for the betterment of Bahrain and its citizens, they were attacked at dawn on 17 February without warning causing the death of 7 protesters. The first crackdown did not succeed in putting off the uprising, instead making people more determined. However, they were attacked for a second time on 13 March while peacefully protesting in the financial harbor. On the same day government thugs backed up by security forces attacked students in the University of Bahrain.

The major crackdown which was aimed at “purifying” (as described by the Bahrain Army spokesperson) the roundabout, as announced on national TV, took place on 16 March 2011 where Bahraini security forces and army accompanied by the Gulf Peninsula Shield attacked unarmed peaceful protesters which included women, children and elderly. Tents were burnt and people shot at with teargas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. On 15 March, a state of National Security was declared in Bahrain, followed by systematic targeting and attacks on villages and protesters for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Anyone joining the protests was discriminated against for being part of the opposition and calling for reform.

Protesters were targeted in the 2.5 months of state of emergency at checkpoints, workplaces, villages, and even their homes. Nowhere was safe for anyone from the opposition in Bahrain, especially from the Shia community who are the majority of the opposition and easier to spot by security forces due to their names and places of residence. Many violations of human rights have been committed by the Bahraini authorities, amongst them robbery and vandalism of property, Hundreds of cases were reported to BCHR, provided with videos and photos of such violations as evidence. The checkpoints are still widespread in many areas, despite the lifting of the state National Safety since June 1, 2011.

Robbery

Robbery has been very common after the imposition of a state of emergency on 17 March 2011. These occurred during nightly home raids, at checkpoints and in villages. Based on the cases reported to BCHR, the total amount stolen in just three months reached BD437,781 for 336 cases reported, although the number is believed to be higher. Not only was cash stolen but it seems that Bahraini security forces also focused on stealing mobile phones, laptops (many brand new), ipads, ipods, and other valuable things. The reported number of mobile/smart phones taken was 431 and the number of laptops was 113. Mobiles and laptops taken were worth at least BD140,900.

(1) At Checkpoints:

Following the declaration of a state of emergency, hundreds of checkpoints were setup in all areas of Bahrain. Although officially they were managed by security forces, in many areas and on different occasions they were also managed by government thugs. The targets of these checkpoints were those whom security forces felt took part at the protests at Pearl Roundabout or were from the Shiaa sector which was made synonymous with the opposition in a government-led sectarian campaign. When those who were being targeted were identified at a checkpoint either by their CPR or the contents of their mobile phones, they would be treated with violence and humiliation and in numerous cases were arrested. This is a BCHR report covering violence at checkpoints: .

In addition to violence at checkpoints, robbery became a common occurrence. More than 100 cases have been reported of robberies at checkpoints. Zahra was stopped at a checkpoint in Muharraq arwa where she works. Her car was searched, her mobile and laptop were taken as well as a cash amount of BD30 from her wallet.

On 3 May, Hani and his friend were going to attend a dinner party in Adliya. On their way at 9:45pm he was stopped at one of the checkpoints by a uniformed security officer near the Salmaniya hospital, where his mobile and a sum of BD150 were stolen. Hussain was with his cousin going to buy dinner from a drive-through in Salmaniya area where he was stopped by police guards; they were beaten, taken to jail and detained for nearly 5 weeks. Hussain was tortured then released with a broken nose. Upon his release he requested his belongings including his wallet which contained cash of BD80, ID card and his 2 smart phones worth BD400 but was told it was not available with the security. Hussain then asked for his new 3 month old red Mazda Ultra car worth BD10,000, but was informed that the car wasn’t taken by security even though he was arrested from his car at a checkpoint.

There were few cases reported of robbery immediately after withdrawing money from banks. Such an incident happened to a business woman, who left the bank, only to be stopped at a checkpoint near the Sheraton hotel by a uniformed officer who asked for her ID and after reading her name, he asked if she was a relative of a jailed Member of Parliament. She replied that he is her brother. The money she had withdrawn was in an envelope so the security officer inquired what the envelope contained. She explained that it contained salaries of her employees. The officer took the envelope and asked her to leave. When she demanded to get it back, he replied by telling her to ask the jailed MP to pay her the amount, having no option but her safety she had to leave without getting her employees’ salary back. In another case, Mohammed was stopped after leaving a bank on 20 June at a checkpoint in Dimastan Village by four armed security guards in civilian clothing. They asked him and his wife to hand their mobile phone and took a cash amount of BD150 which they had just withdrawn from the bank.

Such incidents have made Bahrainis very fearful of checkpoints. They have become very cautious to the point where no one leaves home with expensive items, mobile phones or laptops, and carries the least amount of cash possible to avoid having it stolen at checkpoints by security forces[1] .

(2) During Nightly home raids

Robbery was not the only crime committed by security forces, as many Bahrainis felt unsafe even in their own homes. Every night security forces and masked men would break into houses in the early hours of the morning to arrest people and rob valuable items from their homes.

Artist Mohsin Gareeb’s [2] house got raided by around 40 mostly non-Bahraini security officers, some wearing uniforms and others civilian clothes. They attacked his house, destroyed all the furniture and took with them the cars and doors’ keys, an iPod, four laptops, four smart phones, a gold jewelry set, a BD100 chandelier and unknown cash amount from his wallet, in addition to a digital camera, a video camera, a removable hard disk, phone charging cards and a charity box full of charity money. Items stolen from Mr. Gareeb’s house were worth of 1000s of dinars in value. Similarly to artist Mohsin who had charity money stolen, cleric Abdul Jaleel Al Meqdad also had huge amount of Charity money stolen when his house got raided to arrest him. Also, Sheikh Al Mubarakhad a charity box stolen from his house and security forces took everything they could carry with them including his and his wife’s cars when they raided his house at 3am.

Abdul Jaleel Al Meqdad house

From Nuwaidrat village, Ali Mohamed, says his family hides anything valuable they have every night in anticipation of another raid after his father was arrested at 1am in mid of April. Similarly, Hasan’s home was raided where his father was arrested from his bed without being allowed to dress. They forced the rest of the family to face the wall using anti Shia slurs. Security forces took from Hassan’s house seven mobile phones, one laptop and three desktop computers. They also attacked the house of Abudrais in Manama to arrest the journalist Haider AlNoamini (his son in-law), who works for Al Wasat newspaper. All family members were humiliated, assaulted and BD4000 was stolen as well as 4 mobiles, 6 laptops and 2 cameras and household items and furniture were damaged. Another BD3500 was stolen during a raid on Muneer Al Sheikh’s home and BD1700 as well as laptops and 6 mobiles were stolen from the house of opposition leader Abdulwahab Hussain.

Akbar who lives in a majority Sunni area was forced to leave the house on the 17th of March without being able to take his belongings. He tried to go back with no luck and when he finally managed to reach his house, the house was totally empty. Everything was robbed, there was nothing left except the carpet and the curtains and a few old things. Till today he is unable to live in the house and has to stay with relatives till he manages to sell his house and move to another secured area for himself. In another case during an attack on a village, security forces raided the house of the owner of a tourism company for religious pilgrimages and stole BD65,000 which was collected for the pilgrimages of his customers. In addition to the huge amount of cash, they stole 4 mobiles and 2 laptops. This specific incident has been reported directly to the International Criminal Court with supporting documents.

Mohamed was arrested on March 27 by 30 security guards from his mother’s house in Manama. They destroyed most of the furniture and stole lots of items including a mobile phone and an Ipad; strangely the second morning 4 non-Bahraini security guards planned another robbery and came to the house to remove his mother's small safe box completely which contained a few gold items and some land deeds.

Many stories of 100,000s of dinars stolen in cash or valuable items by Bahrain’s security forces have been reported to BCHR while many more have not out of fear. The crime of robbery has been systematically targeted towards opposition and pro-democracy protesters in Shia villages around Bahrain.

Vandalism

(1) Cars

While government media has been accusing protesters of the destruction of public property, videos have proven otherwise. Bahrain’s riot police and security forces have been seen going around smashing car windows and slashing tires of civilian cars parked in villages or around protest areas. After the brutal crackdown on Pearl Roundabout, police were seen smashing cars of the protesters who ran away to escape the violence. People were unable to go back to take their cars, as whoever went to inquire was arrested. Later on hundreds of cars were removed to unknown destinations as has been reported, as well as the vandalizing of over 100 cars as reported to BCHR.

Vandalized cars in the University of Bahrain after thugs attach on 13 March[3]

Sayed, 21 years old, was working in ALBA taking care of his family after his father passed away. He was sacked from his work like thousands of Bahraini workers and got his car taken by security guards who left him with a BD105 payment for a car he no longer has nor can pay for. Amal Ali and her family have no ride to their work place, schools or anywhere else as one of their cars was taken away from the pearl roundabout after the crackdown and the other one was smashed while parked outside their house in Sitra village.

Vandalised cars (punctured tires) in Al Eker[4]

Many families, like Amal Ali’s, have lost their means of transportation, however they were also fearful of reporting their cases dreading the worst; arrest, detention and torture. Maher Abdul Wahab tried to report his missing car after a week of the crackdown and he was humiliated, beaten and detained for 3 hours then released, and till this day has not received a reply from the Police. Despite the humiliation and torture Maher went through, he was luckier than Mohammed Hassan Jawad who was arrested and is still in detention for reporting his missing car.

(2) Houses

Houses were not only robbed during the raids but were also vandalized and smashed for no apparent reason. Many photos have been published of wrecked houses and broken furniture by riot police and security forces. Over 200 houses have been vandalized as reported to BCHR.

Artist H Al Moulani’s house after being raided by Bahrain’s security forces[5]

Artist H Al Moulani's house was raided after midnight by uniformed forces who broke into his house without warning but did not find him there so they stole BD2800, 2 mobile phones, 3 DJ speaker sets, hard discs, and 2 video cameras. They also vandalized the house’s furniture and smashed up his recording studio and workshop which are above his house.

Twenty year old poet, Ayat Al Qurmazi, was arrested after a dawn raid where security forces broke into the house, searching and vandalizing her property. Photos taken after the raid show broken doors, beds and cupboards with everything thrown on the floor.

Ayat Al Qurmazi House vandalized[6]

Brothers Ali and Salah Abdulaal’s house was raided at 1.30am and jewelry, cash and electronic equipment costing around BD4000 were stolen. As video footage shows, the entire house was damaged before they were arrested along with their friend[7] .

Karim Fakhrawi was tortured to death after reporting the vandalism and robbery of his house

Martyr Karim Al Fakhrawi house

This is a frightening situation, as people fear reporting the robberies and vandalism to the police particularly following the death of Karim Fakhrawi in police custody due to torture, after he went to the police station to file a report and complaint about a raid on one of his relative's houses on the 3rd of April[8] .

Violations

Bahrain is a member of the United Nations and a signatory of International Convention on the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief; therefore, the acts of systematic robbery and vandalism have been a comprehensive violation of human rights. The following articles are being violated by the Bahraini authorities.

(1) Article 3, right to life, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. The people of Bahrain do not feel safe or secure because of security forces at checkpoints and raids to arrest, vandalize and rob peaceful Bahrainis for expressing opinions opposing the government[9] .

(2) Article 17 of the UDHR: “(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”, however, in Bahrain, properties have been taken away, stolen and vandalized by Bahrain’s security forces supported by army[10] .

(3) Article 4 (A) of the International Convention on the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief: “All States shall take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the recognition, exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life[11] ” and Article 18 of the UDHR: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance[12] ”. However, all those who have been subjected to such violations by Bahrain’s regime have been from the opposition and mainly from the Shia sect of Islam.

(4) Article 7 of the UDHR that “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination”, however, all those who reported their cases of vandalism and robbery to the authorities were targeted by being detained, tortured and even killed[15] .
Based on the above BCHR calls for the following:

- Conducting independent and thorough investigations into these crimes - Bringing all those responsible for committing these systematic robberies and vandalism to justice, as well as their superiors who ordered these action to be done - Take the necessary actions to maintain the protection of the citizens by imposing and implementing laws protecting their properties and basic human rights - Stop recruiting non-Bahraini mercenaries to work in the security forces. - Immediately compensate the victims of robbery and vandalism

Reference

Videos of Riot police smashing up civilian cars in different areas, on different dates:

Photos

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[1]http://usa.tommy.com/tom.. [2]http://www.demotix.com/news/.. [3]http://www.facebook.com/media/set.. [4]https://twitter.com/#!/OnlineBahr.. [5]http://www.asyadbh.com/vb/showthre.. [6]http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?se.. [7]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJJ-c4GNopU [8]http://www.cpj.org/killed/2011/karim-fakhrawi.php [9]http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a3 [10]http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a17 [11]http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/36/a36r055.htm [12]http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a18 [13]http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a7