Activists in Bahrain have posted footage of thugs ransacking store
Activists in Bahrain have posted footage of thugs ransacking store

Activists in Bahrain have posted footage of masked thugs ransacking a store with little, if any, restraint from the police after they have arrived on the scene.

The CCTV footage shows a group of thugs, most of whom have their faces covered, storming in and ransacking the store.

A few minutes into the video, the police arrive and appear to be dismissive of the legal violation that has occurred, as they signal for the youths to leave the store. Some of them can be seen leaving with stolen goods in their hands.

The video appeared a few days after former Scotland Yard counter-terrorism chief John Yates denied that the kingdom is becoming increasingly insecure.

Yates and former Miami police chief John Timoney were appointed to oversee reform of the country's police force after reports of human rights abuses during the government crackdown on protesters last year.

In a letter to the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (Fia), the governing body of world motor racing, about security concerns surrounding the Bahrain Grand Prix set to take place on 22 April, Yates said he felt Bahrain was more secure than London.

Controversially, in this context he also appeared to define criminals as people who act against the police.

"The almost nightly skirmishes that take place in certain villages are a potential block on progress and are putting those involved in their policing and innocent members of the public in significant danger.

"However, in spite of how these events may be portrayed through the medium of YouTube and other outlets, their significance should not be overplayed.

"These are not lawful protests which are permitted, but violent conduct by a very small minority - often groups of 15-20 young men.

"These are criminal acts being perpetrated against an unarmed police force who, in the face of such attacks, are acting with remarkable restraint.

"These people are intent on causing harm to the police and the communities in which they live," he added.

Activists have hit back at the claims, saying the footage clearly demonstrates police inaction.

Politicians and activists have also said that some of the thugs are encouraged by the government and its security forces.

Ruled by a Sunni monarchy, the majority of indigenous Bahrainis are Shias.

In an interview with the IBTimes UK earlier this year, former Bahraini MP Ali Mahdi al-Aswad denounced anti-Shia tactics employed by the government, which he accused of actively discriminating against the majority population.

Nabeel Rajab, director of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), made similar allegations, saying the raid on the store had been sanctioned by the security forces.

"The video shows a group of thugs attacking a Shia business. We have said for some time that the regime was using thugs to target Shia stores and other businesses, because the majority of pro-democracy protesters are Shia," he told IBTimes UK.

"This video is a good example of how the police are acting on a daily basis. If this is the kind of training that John Yates has been employed to oversee, then it is abhorrent.

"Yates is actively supporting a repressive regime and doing a PR campaign for them. He is supporting dictators," Rajab stressed.

According to the BCHR, 30 people have died as a result of tear gas and confrontations with the police since Yates and Timoney were hired in December.

Despite months of protests and several accusations being levelled against the Bahraini security services, activists in Bahrain have received little support from the international diplomatic community. This is in stark contrast to other Arab countries, where pro-democracy protests were strongly encouraged by foreign heads of states.

In Bahrain, pro-democracy protests in February and March 2011 were severely repressed, a fact acknowledged by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (Bici), which was appointed by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in the wake of the unrest.

The Bici has since published a report containing its recommendations. For its part, the government has said it is committed to proceeding with reforms and maintains that it has already implemented many of Bici's recommendations.

According to activists, many of the people jailed during last year's protests are still being detained, including leading rights activist Abdulhadj al-Khawaja, who has been on a hunger strike for more than 60 days to protest his innocence.

The government has also been accused of continued brutality, including the excessive use of tear gas, arbitrary arrests and detention, as well as state-sanctioned torture.