BICI report expected to herald new era for Bahrain

November 27, 2011

As day gently gave way to night, Bahrainis and non-Bahrainis alike rushed to the report published online by an expert independent commission on the incidents that hit Bahrain this year.

They were looking for a confirmation of their claims, a vindication of their statements, an argument for their cause.

Rarely has a report polarised the attention of so many people across the five continents.

White House

In Washington, the White House, a major Bahrain ally, said that it welcomed the report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), “which provides a thorough and independent assessment of events in Bahrain since protests first erupted in February.”

“King Hamad’s decision to establish the Commission was a courageous one, and we commend him for it,” it said.

“We commend the chairman of the Commission, Cherif Bassiouni and the other commissioners for their thorough and painstaking efforts over nearly five months. The report identifies a number of disturbing human rights abuses that took place during this period, and it is now incumbent upon the Government of Bahrain to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations and put in place institutional changes to ensure that such abuses do not happen again.”


The White House said that it welcomed King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa’s commitment to carry out the report’s recommendations and that it will closely follow the implementation process.

“More broadly, we believe the Commission’s report and subsequent steps taken to implement its recommendations can serve as a foundation for advancing reconciliation and reform. Bahrain is a long-standing partner of the United States, and we urge the government and all parties to take steps that lead to respect for universal human rights and to meaningful reforms that meet the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis,” it said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that her country welcomed the report and urged a prompt implementation of its recommendations.

“The United States welcomes the release of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, and we commend King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa’s initiative in commissioning it,” a statement by the Secretary of State.

Shared interests

“Our countries have many shared, strategic interests and a relationship that includes decades of working together to defend regional security. In this context, it is essential for Bahrainis themselves to resolve the issues identified in the report and move forward in a way that promotes reform, reconciliation, and stability. We are deeply concerned about the abuses identified in the report, and urge the Government and all elements of Bahraini society to address them in a prompt and systematic manner. The Government of Bahrain has committed to establish a follow-on committee to implement the report’s recommendations, and we urge full and expeditious implementation of these recommendations,” she said.

The United States will continue to promote the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all of Bahrain’s citizens, Clinton said.

“We believe the BICI report offers a historic opportunity for all Bahrainis to participate in a healing process that will address long-standing grievances and move the nation onto a path of genuine, sustained reform,” she said.

Thousands interviewed

In Bahrain, where M. Cherif Bassioumi, the chair of the international commission that spent four months interviewing thousands of people and looking into thousands of claims, the report spawned a flurry of statements from senior officials from the interior ministry and the army as well as the parliament endorsing the recommendations.

However, at the grassroots level, the two worlds in which the country’s major sects have moved over the last eight months were clearly apparent.

For Mohammad Salman, a teacher, Bassioumi did not go far enough.

“He should have recommended the release of all prisoners, for instance,” he said.


“He pointed out to human rights abuse, so whatever was built on wrong premises cannot be right,” he said.

Riyadh Ahmad, an analyst, said that there is no problem with the report “as it covered both sides.”

“It is the fact that he highlighted mostly the negative instances against the country. His speech, beamed live on TV, sounded like a script written by the opposition. It is only when we delved in the report that we discovered that there were lots of crucial elements that were not mentioned in the speech,” he said.

However, Saud Al Ansari, an adviser, said that people should not rush to conclusions about the report.

“It is an important document and it needs to be read carefully and cautiously,” he said. “It is not biased, for sure, so people should not get emotional about it. They should really use it to try to understand what went wrong in Bahrain and then think about ways to overcome differences. We are after all Bahrainis and we have always lived together,” he said.

Report ‘no victory’

The National Unity Rally, the largest Sunni group, said that the report should not be seen as a victory for any party.

“There is an urgent need by all parties to take the right measures to ease the tension crippling the society,” it said. “This is a huge responsibility that must be assumed by both the authorities and the opposition.”

The print media, expectedly, carefully picked the statements, observations and recommendations that concurred with editorial line. Headlines suggested that the dailies did not cover the same report.




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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