Excessive Use of Force:

Security Forces Disperse Peaceful Protest in Sitra

The authorities have given permission for a peaceful protest to take place in Sitra on 6 March 2009. A number of local individuals, several members of Parliament and local councils have participated in protesting against the so-called ‘illegitimate burying’ of the sea on Muhsa beach.

Ahmad Al Basri,

The protest started peacefully, but security forces quickly used tear gas and plastic bullets to disperse tens of protestors including women and children, which led to injuries and some cases of fainting due to the use of gas. MP Haider Al Sitri estimated the number of protestors as 32 men and six women. According to sources in the media, one of the protestors has sustained broken ribs while another is in a critical condition due to a broken shoulder resulting from a plastic bullet injury. The sources stated that a 40-year-old deaf man, Ahmad Al Basri, sustained an injury to his right eye which could damage it completely, also due to the use of plastic bullets and has been sent abroad for treatment by one of the political societies (al Wefaq). It is worth mentioning that Al Basri did not participate in the protest and was driving his car on his way home after the protest had ended, and for this reason his family intends to file a complaint against the Ministry of Interior. The security forces had also continued following protestors on foot and one member hit protestors and chased them by cars inside villages and between alleyways.

The reason for this confrontation is that the Security Directorate had allocated a specific place for the protest, but the protestors did not comply with the decision and tried to change it, moving instead towards the sea and sitting on the ground. The security forces then tried to make them return to their allocated place and asked them to retreat within a specific time limit before resorting to force by using batons, tear gas and plastic bullets. However, no confrontations occurred between the protestors and the riot police.

Khaleel Marzooq, MP, who participated in the protest, criticised the security forces for not being lenient or showing restraint, adding that ‘the security policy adopted by the forces was based on violence and oppression’. He also said: ‘it would have been better if they had contained the event and should not have punished people in such a tough and barbaric way’. A police spokesman justified what happened by saying that protestors had violated the terms of the conditions when they began gathering before the specified time. They also refused to adhere to the designated place of protest, started moving towards a prohibited military base, and threw stones at the police which necessitated the interference of the security forces. Protestors refuted the Ministry of Interior’s account of the incident, affirming that the military base was far from the place of protest and could not even be seen. This incident reveals the excessive use of force and a breach of the limits of the law, and the Ministry of Interior is required to investigate it, to compensate victims and to bring those responsible to justice.