BEIRUT, Lebanon, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Bahrain has the opportunity to improve the government's image by investigating the recent police shooting of two suspects, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.
"If Bahraini security forces want to fix the reputation they have for covering up abuses, they should promptly investigate the conduct of the officers," who fatally shot a 19-year-old man and seriously injured a 17-year-old boy on Jan.8, said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director for the rights group, in a statement Thursday from Beirut.
Bahrain's Interior Ministry says the officers shot in self defense at an oncoming vehicle operated by the victims. HRW said the government statement contradicts photos showing one of the victims with a bullet wound to the back of the head.
Bahraini authorities said the men were suspected of playing a role in an effort to smuggle weapons into the country. Stork said authorities had legitimate reasons for intervening, "but it does not appear that they had any legitimate cause to shoot them."
Bahrain's human rights record has come up against criticism from groups like Human Rights Watch, who've said the Sunni-led monarchy is trying to silence its critics.
Bahrain says it is committed to reforms recommended by an independent panel that probed the government's response to a Shiite-led uprising in 2011.