Bahrain government says it will use commission report for more reforms

November 21, 2011

Bahrain’s government on Monday said that it looked forward to “an independent and honest assessment” of the incidents that hit the country.

“This is what is required for the government to appraise its performance, to learn from our mistakes, and to enact reforms that serve Bahrain and all the Bahraini people,” a statement from the cabinet said, two days before the highly anticipated report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) is released to the public.

The BICI was set up in June by King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa to look into allegations of human rights violations in February and March and their consequences. It was initially scheduled to release the report on October 30, but deferred to November 23 due to the amount of work it had to carry out.

“The report is the embodiment of many months of intensive work as well as His Majesty the King’s absolute commitment to determine the truth even if that means highlighting mistakes made by the state and its apparatus,” the government said.

“BICI has been given every opportunity to fulfil its mandate for truth with distinction. No question has been left out of its scope of inquiry into the events of this year. It is comprised of internationally eminent commissioners having vast relevant experience and no links to Bahrain.

“The Commissioners and their staff worked under the protection of full legal immunity so that they carried on their work without any apprehensions, while the government opened its doors to them.”

The government said that it carried out its own assessments and conducted its own investigations.

“These investigations have revealed things to praise as well as things to deplore. Regrettably, there have been instances of excessive force and mistreatment of detainees. This was in violation of government policy and 20 prosecutions against the officers involved have been initiated. This is in no way the limit of the steps that will be taken,” it said.

“Our police forces have generally shown admirable restraint when faced with great provocation. Every civilian casualty is a defeat for the government. The extremists know this, and have engaged in reckless provocation. The police have suffered 846 injuries since the beginning of the events as well as four deaths and innumerable threats and insults, especially to their families.”

However, the government said that it did not seek to excuse any wrongdoing.

“The BICI has stated publicly that it has investigated the instances of mistreatment. We can expect that its report will be very critical of these occurrences and the government’s responsibility for failing to prevent them.

“The government expects such criticism. We cannot condone mistreatment and abuses by our officials. There will be no impunity. All those responsible for abuses will be held accountable,” it said.

The statement said that the government and the nation have taken significant steps to address and remedy injustice within the Bahrain society.

“We have established a Special Fund for Victims to ensure that those who suffered in any way from the violent events of February and March are rightly compensated. There are also before the parliament amendments to the law that would greatly enhance freedom of expression in accordance with international human rights laws. The right to speak freely is to be protected, and not criminalized,” it said

. “At the same time, through the National Dialogue, the authority of our elected leaders has been increased, placing them at the centre of our legislature. By giving them the power to accept or reject the government or its programmes, MPs are now better placed than ever before to scrutinise the work of the government, ensuring greater openness and accountability.”

However, the government said that there was more work to be done.

“We have already begun to draw up proposals and initiatives on the basis of our own investigations which will advance our reforms and enhance the protection of human rights of our citizens.”

The cabinet agreed to two sets of amendments to the laws, it said.

“The first set of amendments changes our penal code so that all forms of torture will be criminalized. These amendments will be accompanied by stricter sentencing for those who commit torture, together with the lifting of the limitation period for claims of torture. These amendments will bring our laws on torture in line with international human rights standards,” it said.

The second set of amendments agreed by the cabinet will result in the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution that will be truly independent of the government and which will be tasked with promoting and enhancing human rights within Bahrain.

“These amendments mean that this institution would be set up in accordance with the Paris Principles, which represent the international standard against which independent human rights institutions are assessed,” 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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