Viral Justice: The MOI’s Continued Failure to Hold Police Accountable Despite Evidence

longOn 9th December, the Ministry of the Interior announced that they would be launching an investigation into the brutal arrest of a young man in the village of Diraz. This announcement came after a video of the incident was distributed on Twitter and Facebook the day before. The video in question shows police hitting and slapping a young boy who is clearly subdued and under control.

Although continued police brutality (despite the government’s vociferous claims of reform) is hardly surprising, it is odd that the MOI should announce an investigation into the Diraz incident almost 3 months after the video first surfaced. Indeed, video evidence of the incident in question was first uploaded on 20th September.

Not viral? No ‘justice’

So why has it taken 3 months for the MOI to announce an investigation? Was whoever runs the MOI Twitter account absent the day the video was first posted? Given that the original video has about 66,000 hits, you’d think the police would be among those who had seen it (what with it being their job to investigate crime etc). In all fairness, I guess the police are more reluctant to investigate crime when they are the ones carrying it out. Maybe 66,000 hits isn’t enough to warrant an investigation? I mean, a video that showed police beating a man in Bani Jamrah got 86,000 hits, and the MOI described this as a ‘ viral video’. Maybe 80,000 is the cutoff point for defining something as viral/worthy of announcing an investigation into. Usually the MOI respond on Twitter to these ‘viral videos’ pretty soon after they occur. The usual format is to announce an investigation and then to say nothing more about it. Indeed, Fig 1 at the bottom of this post that documents incidents involving police criminality that the MOI have pledged to investigate.

No news is bad news

Despite their eagerness to appear that they are paying attention to issues of police accountability, the MOI are not very good at updating the public as to the status of the investigations. As of yet, details of the names, nationalities and ranks of those policemen under investigation have been obscured. It is, of course, possible that the MOI don’t know who the policemen in question are. Perhaps they are waiting for a leaked copy of the names to go viral on Twitter before making an announcement? The MOI’s reluctance to update the public on the statuses of these investigations is disturbing. After all, how do we know they are really doing any investigating at all? What makes it more frustrating is that the MOI have themselves acknowledged the need to keep the public informed.

The MOI has referred the case to the public prosecutor.  The policemen’s first hearing will be on November 21 2012 and the public will be kept informed on the progress of the case.

Selectivity 

In addition to the MOI’s refusal to update the public on the statuses of these investigation, it is ridiculous that they only announce investigations into a select number of cases. For example, they announced an investigation into an incident where a policeman was filmed throwing a Molotov cocktail. There are at least 12 videos showing policemen throwing Molotov cocktails, yet the MOI only announced an investigation into one of them. (Given that many happened in 2012, I guess the government didn’t want to make a mockery of the police ‘reforms’). Again, this is just an example. Police have also been filmed throwing steel rods, yet no investigation was announced into this.

Over the past year, there have been countless videos that portray the brutality of Bahrain’s security services. In this regard, social media is providing new opportunities to hold those in power accountable.  However, if the Bahraini police investigated every incident of documented police criminality, they would have no time to conduct their security crackdown. It would also look bad if the MOI’s website and Twitter account were peppered with announcements of investigations into police brutality, especially when the government are trying to convince a skeptical world that they are carrying out reform.

As it stands, video evidence of police abuse might at least elicit a response from the MOI. Indeed, at least evidence like this prevents the MOI from becoming judge, jury and executioner in instances of their own misconduct, as was recently the case with Aqeel Mohsen, who was shot in the face by the police after he was in a car that tried to run the police over. Although the MOI’s version of events is possible, lack of video evidence means that their side of the story will undoubtedly go unchallenged.

Why bother with the BS?

The MOI’s announcements of investigations in police criminality are mere attempts to convince the public that they are committed to transparency and accountability. Indeed, if they were truly committed to either of these things, the public might actually be given more information and credible updates about these investigations. What is interesting about this latest announcement is simply the incompetence with which it was executed – a poorly (and I’ll wager hastily) written tweet announcing an investigation into an incident that actually occurred about 3 months ago. Of course the MOI are not known for their communication ability, remember when it took them about four attempts to determine the nationality of someone who was killed by a police patrol car.

Given that no policemen, government officials or members of the security forces appear to be serving prison time for the egregious abuses carried out by the state last year, why should anyone find any truth in the MOI’s vague announcements of investigations into abuses? Even if these investigations exist, they are undoubtedly flawed. Let’s not forget, the MOI failed to hold anyone accountable for 45 civilian deaths last year, itself a testament to the quality of the institution’s investigative abilities.

Fig 1 (for pdf click here> MOItable)

table image

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4 Responses to Viral Justice: The MOI’s Continued Failure to Hold Police Accountable Despite Evidence

  1. Steve says:

    Marc, you’re clearly a bright kid (well, perhaps no longer a kid judging by previous comments), full of vim and vigour, and righteous outrage against injustice. I can see where you’re coming from. I don’t like those nauseating posters of Khalifa 50/50 everywhere I look; or foreign mercenaries beat up on Bahrainis, who are, by and large, friendly people.

    But take a step back.

    In Libya, we helped the majority kick out a dictator of 40 years and his mercenaries. And so they all joined hands, subscribed to the Guardian, created a happy, liberal land of equality, liberated women and free buggery for all, renamed the country New Islington, and all lived happily ever after.

    What? They didn’t? Oh no, sorry. They went Sharia Loopy, as Chas ‘n’ Dave didn’t put it. They blew up the US Ambassador, forced women to wear sacks, and god knows what’s going to happen to the oil that Gadaffi was selling us.

    Yes, that evil dastardly oil. The oil that powers those exquisite, long, freedom-loving lefty words that you tap out of your computer every day. That keeps your secular, equal-for-all-faiths winter holiday lights on. That powers your eco-friendly SmartCar on its way to the latest rally on the struggle against capitalist imperialism (or is it imperialist capitalism, I always forget).

    The point, my friend, is that ingrained Muslim nations, in which people have been brainwashed from birth with the tenets of their extreme, wacky desert creed for a hundred generations, are not like the rest of the world. Look at Vietnam. They spent the 60s and 70s with less free love, more ferocious fighting against the USA, beating them, and losing 2m people in the process. Surely their burning hatred of the Yankee must be eternal?

    Wrong. Today, they’re like the rest of the non-Islamic world. They go out, dance to Gaga and have sex at the weekend. They learn English, admire the West for its development, justice and democracy, and want to live there or make their own country more like it. Same as Argentina, Taiwan, Ghana, Micronesia…..everywhere, in fact, apart from Dar al-Islam.

    For them (and their number is growing, even if their wealth is declining), Jersey Shore and a lesbian president isn’t the end of history. Quite the opposite. It’s the work of Shaitan. Which must be fought at all costs and in all ways. And they understand the long game.

    It is this thinking, of separateness and superiority, that caused – among many other things – the catastrophe of the creation of Pakistan (god knows how many millions dead; tens of millions of lives destroyed). How the hell anyone could consider that corrupt, murderous, venal failed state superior, is beyond a person, like me and you, brought up in an atmosphere of empirical rationality. But hundreds of millions do! The kind of people who murdered Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti – and more importantly, the many, many more who showed up to cheer and throw flowers for the murderer in court. Believe me, they’re not going to melt away into liberal hand-wringing, female mullahs and gay marriage like the Church of England any time soon.

    In fact, they scorn Christianity, like all other religions, because it has changed its texts so many times. Islam, they claim with chest-beating pride, remains pure and unaltered from the original. Whether or not that’s actually true, it is believed to be so, making any Reformation, any Enlightenment, even less likely. That, and the murder of anyone who suggests as much, from Aden to Amsterdam.

    But your right-on Arab buddies from the anti-Israel demo, studying in London, aren’t going to kill anyone, you think. They’re not even averse to the occasional pint or bit of slap ‘n’ tickle! Sure. Sowing youthful oats with the English sluts. But you can bet (though not in an Islamic country, of course) that in 20 years, they’ll be living (at least outwardly, and that’s what counts) pious, respectable Muslim lives back home, with an acceptably pure wife.

    And never mind the Bloomsbury bigshots anyway; what about the vast majority back home who don’t speak English, and will never study anything other than the Quran, week after week, after week, after week….

    And so we return to Bahrain.

    Say the Al Khalifas run away, to London, Zubara, or wherever else, with their Shah- and Ben Ali-style 747s full of gold and jewels. The mercenaries vanish to their failed states of Pakistan, Yemen, or any other Islamic nation sans mineral enhancement.

    First the party. The (non-alcoholic) champagne corks pop. The (strictly gender-segregated) dancing ends. What then? Noble, post-apartheid South Africa, with its impeccably liberal constitution, and freedom for all (just don’t mention “Kill the Boer”, corrective rapes, and other silly distractions)? Scandinavia, with its hefty welfare state, its chilled-out police, and its naked saunas?

    Or Iraq. Iran. Hamas’s Gaza. Morsi’s new Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood-style (and freely elected by the brainwashed, unEnlightened, irrational mass, donchaknow?) The restrictions on freedom of religion, women, thought and action that are gleefully swept onto the statute books, and more importantly the streets, whenever a thoroughly Islamified (Muslimised?) nation has a genuinely free election.

    The faintly amusing irony, for those of my sardonic disposition, is that the Al Khawaja sisters would likely have fewer rights without the Al Khalifas than they do under them (*insert joke about FM Khalid’s avoirdupois here*).

    Marc, Marc, Marc. I hope you keep up the blog. It’s good for the little grey cells to read such thoroughly-researched work, so well put together by someone intelligent and passionate about their cause.

    But are you sure you know quite what that cause is?

    PS One more thing: in the Brave New World you hope to bring about, they might not fancy letting us take their crude on such generous terms (say goodbye to the petrodollar). Not so easy to be a twitter liberal by candlelight and pedal power.

    • Steve I don’t think it is constructive to justify authoritarianism by invoking an imaginary dystopian alternative. If I were to focus on the salient aspect of your comment, which I gathered focused around energy policy. I think it is important for investment to be diverted into exploring other sources. This would negate the need for inflated costs that results from investing into security apparatuses intended to secure access to such resources. Also such consumption stems from a flawed economic system that relies on ever escalating consumption of resources. Your argument is obviously valid in the context of a dog eat dog ideology, one that believes we should do what is in our own interest because everyone else is competing for the same resources and failure to adopt a mercenary attitude results in us being left behind. I think believing this threatens the vary notion of humanitarianism and compassion. Seeking an alternative system requires one to obey sentiments of morality and ethics that involve great sacrifice, which is a challenge of course. To do so requires courage, and one cannot dismiss such efforts by arguing that the current global system is our only option. Doing this simply makes morality irrelevant, for it is subsumed in favour of a mercenary pragmatic outlook that is not really compatible with notions of humanitarianism.

  2. Very amusing letter from a post-colonial Brit who has the self-endowed superiority he so hatefully expresses toward Muslims. Yes, please say good-bye to the Petrodollar invented by Kissinger and his pals in order to help subjugate the entire Middle East. And yes, say good-bye to twitter if that means a few million people get to live without this person’s sneering, self-righteous proclamations. It’s people like him who make the rest of us want a humanity test for the Western World.
    P.S. Steve, have the guts to put your own name and picture on your nasty letters. The rest of us who stand behind our words do.

  3. Pingback: Media Distortion & Lack of Police Accountability: The Death of Mahmood al-Jaziri | Bahrain Watch - Blog

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