Commission head vows open, comprehensive and fair investigation

July 1, 2011

The chair of a high-profile mission assigned with uncovering the truth about what has happened in Bahrain since February has pledged to carry out a wide-ranging, transparent and fair probe according to international standards and regardless of political considerations.

“Everything that has happened in Bahrain will be investigated and all claims will be probed,” Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni said in Manama, on Thursday evening, a day after King Hamad announced the formation of the international commission.

Human rights

Bassiouni, an Egyptian-American human rights expert and law professor at De Paul University in Chicago who is also chairing the commission investigating human rights abuses in Libya, said that he and his team would work independently and would scrutinise all claims and would demand evidence.

“We will talk with everyone as we move ahead with our probe and we have an international team of four to six people and a local team of also four to six people,” he said.

“We will work on issuing the report as soon as we can because we are aware that there will be reforms that the king wants to make, and the sooner we launch the findings and recommendations, the sooner the changes are ushered in,” he said, less than two hours after arriving in Bahrain.

However, he said that people needed to speak out and cooperate with the commission so that justice can be served.

“I stress the importance of human dignity, regardless of who the person is. It is human nature to claim innocence and blame others for any mishap. But we need to get to the bottom of things and we will certainly leave politics out,” said the 73-old war crime expert who was involved in the formation of the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC).

Criminal investigation

“This is no different from any criminal investigation and we will ask for files. There is an opportunity to examine policies and there are huge expectations and hopes. We should always recall that 30 people have died and we are here to investigate their killings. I have also heard that 1,000 people have been arrested and we are planning to look into everything that can help us uncover the truth.”

The commission will be focusing on its work and will have contacts with the media only at the end of the investigation, “for the sake of privacy and confidentiality.”

“We will not divulge anything as we move on, but the report will include everything,” he said.


Bassiouni said that Bahrain’s decision to launch the investigation was a brave move.
“This is the first time that the leader of an Arab or Muslim country calls for the formation of an international commission to investigate events in his country. This is remarkable and we hope that other leaders will have the courage to do the same,” he said.

The government said that it welcomed the formation of the commission and pledged to offer its full support.

In Geneva, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, also welcomed the move to launch the independent probe commission and said she was confident it would meet international standards.

Pillay who had planned to send a mission into Bahrain has opted to wait instead.
“We were originally invited to send our own assessment mission. We held back our own assessment mission because I always encourage the establishment of credible, national investigations,” Pillay said.

King’s decree

“So I have noted the king’s decree where he set up the commission; they are highly respected individuals and I would prefer then to see the outcome of their investigations.”

The commission includes Canadian judge and former ICC president Philippe Kirsch, British human rights lawyer Nigel Rodley, Iranian lawyer Mahnhoush Arsanjani and Kuwaiti Islamic and international law expert Badria Al Awadhi.

In New York, UN chief Ban Ki-moon reportedly welcomed the decision to launch a probe to investigate the incidents.

The secretary-general “welcomes this development and underscores that the commission should be granted full access to all individuals, organisations and information relevant to the investigation,” his spokesperson said.

Ban insisted the five-member panel must “be able to work with full independence in accordance with international norms and standards.”

Notes about the Commission

• The Commission is wholly independent from the Bahraini government and will be responsible for hiring its own staff and administering its own budget;

• The Commission has been afforded full access to government agencies, officials, files and records;

• The Commission has been granted the government’s cooperation in giving the Commission access to all places and people that the Commission deems appropriate;

• The Commission has the ability to meet with witnesses in secrecy and to adopt protective measures for those witnesses;

• The Commission has the authority to decide on all matters concerning the scope of its work and its methods of operation;

• The Government has undertaken to ensure that no person or member of that person’s family who cooperates with the Commission will be punished, penalised, harassed or embarrassed in any way;

• The Commission has been granted the ability to make any recommendations that it sees fit; and

• The Commission’s final report will be made public in its entirety.

Commission Members

Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni
Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni is one of the foremost authorities on international criminal, human rights and humanitarian law. He obtained an LLB from the University of Cairo, a JD from Indiana University, an LLM from John Marshall Law School and an SJD from George Washington University.
Until 2009, Professor Bassiouni was a Distinguished Research Professor at DePaul University College of Law – an institution where he spent thirty-five years. Professor Bassiouni is well published, having authored a number of works including some of the leading textbooks in International Criminal Law. During his career, Professor Bassiouni has also held a number of United Nations positions. Notably, this included the position of Chair for the Drafting Committee at the Diplomatic Conference on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court. He also served as the Chair for the Drafting Committee on the 1985 United Nations Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Powers.
Bassiouni has previous experience working on Commissions of Inquiry. Most recently, he chaired the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Libya (2011). He was also involved in a commissions investigating the human rights situation in Afghanistan between 2004 and 2006, and violations of international humanitarian law in the Former Yugoslavia in 1993.

Judge Philippe Kirsch Q.C.
Judge Philippe Kirsch is one of the foremost authorities on international criminal law, and public international law. Judge Kirsch has a bachelor of civil law degree and a LLM from the Université de Montréal.
Judge Kirsch served as a judge at International Criminal Court in the Hague between 2003 and 2009, acting as the Court’s first President. Prior to serving as a Judge at the Court, Judge Kirsch served as Chairman of the Committee of the Whole of the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court (the Rome Conference). He was also Chairman of the Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court (1999 – 2002). He has also chaired the Canadian National Committee on Humanitarian Law (1998 – 1999) and served as a member of the Group of International Advisers to the International Committee of the Red Cross (2000 – 2003). Judge Kirsch has written extensively on international law and, specifically, on the International Criminal Court.
Additionally, Judge Kirsch served as Chairman of the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee for the Suppression of Acts of Terrorism (1997-1999) and as Chairman of the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee that elaborated the International Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel (1993-1994).

Professor Sir Nigel Simon Rodley KBE
Professor Sir Nigel Simon Rodley KBE is a leading expert in the field of international human rights law. Professor Rodley obtained an LLB (1963) from University of Leeds (1965), an LLM from Columbia University (1970), an LLM from New York University and a PhD from University of Essex (1993).
Rodley has been a member of the United Nations Human Right Committee since 2001 and a Professor of Human Rights Law and International Law at the University of Essex since 1990, during which time he held the title of Dean of the School of Law for three years. He also serves as a Commissioner on the International Commission of Jurists. Previously, Professor Rodley held the position of United Nations Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur on Torture for eight years. He is well-published in the field of human rights having written or edited a number of works, including two editions of the book Treatment of Prisoners.
Rodley has experience with Commissions of Inquiry having previously served as a member of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons observing the Sri Lankan Presidential Commission of Inquiry between 2007 and 2008.

Dr. Mahnhoush H. Arsanjani
Mahnoush H. Arsanjani is a leading international lawyer. She obtained an LLB from the National University of Iran (1971), an LLM from Yale Law School (1974) and a Doctorate of Law from Yale Law School (1977).
Dr. Mahnhoush has served in the legal office of the United Nations for thirty-two years. During that time, she held a number of positions including that of Director of Codification, Secretary of the International Law Commission and Secretary of the Committee of the Whole, Rome Conference on the Establishment of the International Criminal Court. She also currently serves as a Vice-President of the American Society of International Law. She is well published having written a number of books and articles, including the book International Law in Contemporary Perspectives.

Dr Badria A. Al Awadhi
Dr. Badria A. Al Awadhi is a renowned international and Sharia law expert. She holds a Master’s degree in public and private international law from Cairo University, Law Faculty (1968) and a PhD in public international law from London University, University College of Law (1975).
Dr Badria currently serves as the Director of the Arab Regional Center for Environmental Law. She is also the Regional Legal Consultant at the Freedom House Foundation and is a Professor of international law at Kuwait University, Faculty of Law. She is a founding member of the Kuwait Environment Protection Society and served as Secretary General for over 10 years. She is well published, having authored several books on articles on, amongst other subjects, international humanitarian law.
At the international level, Dr Badria is a member in a number of International Organisations such as the International Federation of Women Lawyers, International Law Association, World Jurist Association and International Council of Environmental Law.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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