|Police preparing to move the body of 16-year-old Bahraini protester who was killed by a police car [EPA]|
Hundreds of mourners gathered in Bahrain for the funeral of a young protester killed by a police vehicle as security forces dispersed demonstrators rallying against the nation’s rulers near a United States naval base.
The violence on Saturday occurred just days before an international panel is due to release a highly anticipated report on the country’s trend of violence that has killed more than 30 people since February.
Bahrain has seen months of anti-government protests and subsequent crackdowns in the strategically important Gulf country. The unrest began when the country’s Shia majority started campaigning for greater rights and freedoms.
Hundreds of protesters, opposition leaders and Shia professionals, such as lawyers, doctors and nurses, have been detained and tried on anti-state charges in a special security court since the beginning of protests ignited by uprisings sweeping the Arab world.
Security forces have clashed with protesters almost daily since authorities launched a crackdown in March.
Despite the state’s stern response, critics of the government have continued to publicly mark their dissent. A march in the village of Aali on Friday afternoon is only one of the most recent demonstrations.
Ali Youssef Bagdar died after a police vehicle ran him over during a demonstration early Saturday in the Juffair area of the capital Manama, the 16-year-old’s uncle told The Associated Press news agency.
The uncle, Ibrahim Ali Bagdar, said he rushed to the area with the boy’s father, but police cordoned the site off and would not let anybody approach.
“Our boy was dead and they left him lying on the street for hours,” the uncle said before his nephew’s funeral in Bahrain’s oil hub of Sitra on Saturday.
A report by the state-run Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said a police vehicle skidded into a group of “rioters … committing acts of sabotage” due to an oil spill on the road, killing the boy.
The BNA report said authorities are investigating the incident that occurred just before 1am local time on Saturday.
Bahrain imposed martial law in March and invited 1,500 troops from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf neighbours into the country.
The report by The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), which has been investigating alleged abuses during the ongoing social conflict, is due on Wednesday.
The five-member panel is headed by Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, an Egyptian-born professor of international criminal law and a former member of United Nations human rights panels. The commission was set up in July with the consent of Bahrain’s rulers.
Thousands rallied in Aali village, south of the capital Manama, on Friday [EPA]
Over the past months, the panel received more than 8,000 complaints, testimonies and documents. Its members have interviewed more than 5,000 witnesses and alleged victims of violence, including detainees, police personnel, doctors and journalists.
The panel has drawn controversy from human rights groups for the way it has carried out its investigation.
The Bahrain Mirror, an electronic newspaper run by dissidents, published a report this week arguing that the commission lacks credibility because of a failure to consult civil society and Bahraini NGOs.
The panel was created by the king of Bahrain in order to avoid a UN fact-finding commission, the Bahrain Mirror wrote.
The Mirror’s website stated: “The BICI chief repeatedly hailed the King of Bahrain, the Ministers and the government officials for their cooperation with the Commission, while he took harsh stance toward a number of the victims whom were believed (even by the Commission itself) were subjected to violations of arbitrary arrest, torture, or unfair trials, even it amounted to explicit criminalisation of one of those sentenced to death while a final verdict had been issued against him yet.”
International organisations, including Amnesty International, will be attending the launch of the report in Manama on Wednesday.