Bahrain commission to continue probe despite verbal abuse, physical attack

August 16, 2011

BICI office

An international commission set up to investigate incidents and human rights abuses in Bahrain has pledged not to bow to pressure tactics or allow itself to be used as a political tool by any group and vowed to continue its work despite verbal and physical attacks on its staff on Monday evening.

However, the commission said that it would shut its office, would receive claims only through a dedicated email address or following appointments and would not give interviews to the media.

The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) made the decisions after it was mobbed by protestors reportedly pressed to express their displeasure following reports that it had cleared the Bahraini authorities of perpetrating crimes against humanity.

“The commission remains committed to its mission to investigate the events in February and March. We would like to assure the public that none of its staff have resigned as a result of recent events,” it said in a statement.

Temporarily closed

“Though our office is temporarily closed, the work will continue. Our staff will continue its investigation and will issue a report with recommendations as scheduled, as per our mandate. We ask the people, organisations, institutions and government of Bahrain for their cooperation in making this investigation a fair and successful one,” the statement said.

The commission said that there had been “misleading headlines in recent news articles claiming that the commission has determined that the government of Bahrain committed no crimes against humanity during the demonstrations that have occurred over the last several months.”

“The commission will not make a determination as to the extent of human rights abuses in Bahrain until its investigation is complete. Because certain media outlets and activists have misrepresented the comments of the Commission Chair, Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni, in order to support their political positions, for the time being, the commission will no longer entertain interviews to the media. Should the commission decide that a public statement is necessary, it will provide this information on its website. The commission will not allow itself to be used as a political tool for any group.”

Rights abuses

The commission, set up by King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa to investigate all allegations of rights abuses in Bahrain during the period of security unrest and political turmoil in February and afterwards, said that its office in Adliya would be “closed until further notice.”

“This is due to the fact that today [Monday], hundreds of people forced their way into our office, having been angered over what they believed to be the commission Chair’s ‘conclusions’ on the investigation, and additionally having been directed by activists on Twitter and through mass texts to come to the office to report their complaints,” it said.

“The commission believes its doors should be open to anyone who wishes to come forward and provide information on human rights abuses. However, as we have advised on our website and on Twitter, appointments must be made in order for our investigators to best serve the witnesses and victims.”

The commission said that despite attempts to accommodate “the crowd by offering to take down their information in order to schedule appointments, some in the crowd became restless and verbally and physically threatened the staff.”

“Individuals yelled insults, posted threatening messages on the office walls, sent threats via text and email, and even physically shoved and spat at a member of staff. Individuals also continued to photograph and video record people in the office, despite advice from staff that such actions undermine the confidentiality and safety of the many witnesses and victims coming forward.”

The commission said that while its staff remained committed to conducting its investigation, “it will not jeopardise the security of the individuals that work at and patron the office” and that “while the office remains closed, investigators will continue to accept statements submitted by email.”

In the statement, the commission said that it was also “concerned about the attacks upon the integrity of its commissioners and staff. “

International criminal law

“Its commissioners are comprised of the foremost international criminal law and human rights experts. Similarly, the commission’s staff is comprised of international judges, human rights lawyers and advocates who have established reputations in their fields,” it said. “The staff has worked tirelessly to hear evidence from all witnesses and victims who have contacted the Commission to tell their story.

Members of the commission have visited prisons, hospitals and demonstration sites and stayed at the office until well past midnight in order to accommodate the high volume of interview requests, the statement said.



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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