Yesterday I wrote a post about how the Ministry of the Interior treat Bahrainis differently depending on whether they are pro-government or anti-government. This was after their tame dispersal of a large group of regime supporters who, after gathering at the Alba roundabout, wrecked two cars and then vandalised a nearby Supermarket. The reason the market was attacked is it because it was owned by Jawad Group, which is maligned by many loyalists for apparently serving food to protesters at the Pearl Roundabout last year.
Of course there are numerous examples of the police turning a blind eye to violence perpetrated by pro-regime supporters. There’s also a lot of evidence to show plain clothes thugs operating alongside the police. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether the thugs are civilians, or just security officers in mufty. Today however, this CCTV footage (and this, video also at end of this blog) from the attack on the 24 SuperMarket emerged. Not only does it show thugs breaking into and looting the shop, but it also shows police standing idly by as this happens. That’s not all, at 5.15 one of the security officers wearing a fluorescent bib smashes one of the windows. At 4.50 another officer helps himself to a bottle of water. Clearly ignoring crime is thirsty work.
Although some of the perpetrators run away when they realise the police are coming, many stay behind, casually looting as the law enforcement officials stand and watch. Check out the dude in white at 5.23, he just brazenly walks out with a box of something (cigarettes maybe?) What’s even more amusing is that there is a police officer filming proceedings – see 6.07 for example! At 6.11 the same officer informs one of the looters that there is a CCTV camera, the looter then proceeds to smash the CCTV camera. This is all while the officer is filming! The looter didn’t smash the officer’s camera, so clearly he thought that what the policeman was filming was not going to be used as evidence against him. Unless he was just a bit, you know, stupid. I guess you can’t be too bright to think smashing a CCTV camera will affect what’s already been recorded.
While the police are also telling people to leave, they really are doing absolutely nothing to stop the perpetrators. On the contrary, some of the policemen take part. One smashes a window, whilst another helps himself to water. Whether or not they would have acted differently had there been more policemen is hard to tell. After all, confronting a large mob when you’re outnumbered is probably not wise. Though having said that, many of the perpetrators left fairly early on, leaving the police in a position to enforce the law. We also know from experience that the police are not averse to throwing tear gas grenades into enclosed spaces when the targets are civilians in Shi’a villages, though they chose not to do that here.I think one of the most galling aspects of the whole thing is the sheer impunity with which many of the perpetrators feel they can operate. They obviously believe they have a good chance of getting away with it.
Finally, another amusing and well-timed aspect of all this is how John Yates, the ex-British copper sent into retrain Bahrain’s police, says he feels safer in Bahrain than London. This video is a perfect example of how safety in Bahrain is selective, depending on what side of the political, ethnic and religious fence you sit on. Indeed, if you’re pro-gov, then the police may well ensure that you can loot in complete safety.
Though having said that, a guy in a red t-shirt does trip up at the end (4. 36). Not as safe as I thought…
Today the Ministry of Interior tweeted that they would be investigating a policeman after videos were circulated on social media that showed him throwing a molotov cocktail at protesters. Although most people would ordinarly welcome such an investigation, there is little reason to believe that it is anything more than a poor attempt to convince people that the security forces in Bahrain are actually accountable. Indeed, there are a number of videos that have been circulated in the past that clearly show the police throwing molotov cocktails, yet this is the first time the MOI have launched an investigation into it. (All the the videos of police throwing molotov cocktails are listed at the end of this post, if I’ve missed one let me know)
What is important to bear in mind is that all these incidents occurred after the Bahrain government brought in ‘supercops’ John Yates and John Timoney to supposedly reform the police . It is also important to bear in mind that many of the incidents show the police throwing molotov cocktails in full view of their colleagues, with none of them appearing to intervene. This would suggest that such incidents are not just the work of rogue police officers.
When we see these forms of police deviance in conjunction with other tactics, such as the trowing of steel rods, the savage beatings of unarmed civilians, and the indiscriminate firing of tear gas, it becomes increasingly hard to believe that the Bahrain government are serious about police reform. Indeed it would be more logical to assume that police transgressions are actually a tactic endorsed by authorities to achieve certain organisational and political objectives.
It appears that police deviance in Bahrain stems number of factors, which include; an inability to police by consent on account of the current regime’s lack of legitimacy, the paradoxical necessity to enforce compliance whilst also appearing to demonstrate restraint, the need to provoke a violent response in order to support the incumbent regimes’ divide and conquer strategy
The extent to which police ‘deviance’ is actually sanctioned by the relevant institutions (Ministry of the Interior) seems to be corroborated by both the ongoing trangressions, and videos such as this, which appears to show plain clothes policemen involved in transporting molotov cocktails. Regardless of whether the tactic is officially sanctioned or not, the police should not be throwing molotov cocktails. I’m pretty sure it contravenes their latest of code of conduct, which ‘requires officers to abide by 10 main principles, including limited use of force and a zero-tolerance policy on torture and mistreatment.’ It certainly goes against the recommendations of the BICI report, which advocated a thorough program of retraining for Bahrain’s state security forces.
It is interesting to note that after all the documented evidence of police throwing molotov cocktails and metal rods, the Ministry of the Interior have decided to investigate only one case. Furthermore, the MOI’s investigations lack any sort of credibility. As @billmarczak says
Will this be ‘the kind of investigation where we never hear anything again, or the kind where an anonymous police officer gets reprimanded?
Let us not also forget the time the MOI conducted an investigation into the policemen who were clearly filmed beating young men on a rooftop in Shakura. @Chanadbh documents the MOI’s response here, though it is still not known what became of the policemen who were supposedly being prosecuted. Given that there are no reports of state security officers being convicted of any crimes, it is likely that those involved in the Shakura incident are not behind bars. If we consider the fact that the courts recently charged 28 civilians with ‘attempted murder’ for throwing molotov cocktails at policemen, it will be interesting to see how the case against the policeman pans out – assuming of course, we hear anything more about it.
*For an analysis of protester violence, read this
Videos of police throwing molotovs
Policeman in Juffair throws molotov cocktails towards protesters (this is the video that the MOI seem to be referring to in their tweet)
Policeman throws molotov cocktails in Ma’ameer on 16th March 2012
Policeman in Sitra throws a molotov cocktail at protesters on 23th Dec 2011
Policemen in Al-Eker throw molotov cocktails at protesters on 24th Jan 2012
Policemen in Sitra throw molotov cocktails at protesters on 2nd Feb 2012
Policeman in Tubli throw molotov cocktails at protesters on 12th Feb 2012
Policeman throws a molotov cocktail at protesters
Policeman in Al-Daih carries a molotov cocktail on 14th Feb 2012
Policeman throws a molotov cocktail at a property in Sitra on 22nd Dec 2011
Policeman throws a molotov cocktail in Nabih Saleh
Policeman in Nabih Saleh throws a molotov cocktail at protesters on 29/03/2012
Riot officer throwing a molotov cocktail in Dar al-Kulaib on 08/04/2012
Riot officers throwing molotov cocktails at a house in Salmabad on 27/01/2012
(note: it appears the MOI launched an investigation into this last video on 10th June 2014, – over two years after it first happened)