23 Nov 2011

Bahrain crushed unrest with ‘excessive force’ says report

An official inquiry into the unrest that killed 35 finds that security forces used widespread torture. But the report doesn’t go far enough, a human rights activist tells Channel 4 News.

Protesters at the funeral of a 16 year old boy killed in Sitra on Friday (Friday)

A summary of the findings of a panel set up by the government to investigate human rights violations in February and March said the basic human rights of many detainees were subjected had been violated.

Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, head of the special commission, found evidence of rape and humiliation, but he said that the abuses were not routine policy.

Mr Bassiouni added that the Sunni population were targeted “by racist gangs”, that there was no clear evidence of Iranian link to the protests, and that a failure to punish trouble makers let to a culture of impunity.

The commission promised all those responsible for abuses would be punished, and called on the King to implement widespread reforms.

Maryam al-Khawaja, head of foreign relations for the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Channel 4 News the report meant little without proper accountability.

“The report had some good recommendations but whether those recommendations will be implemented is a very different matter entirely.

“There was nothing in there about the systematic nature of the abuse, these soldiers were following orders after all, and the report didn’t name any top officials at all.

“In order for real change in Bahrain we need real accountability, but how can we have accountability when we have found that four members of the royal family were implicated in administering torture themselves?”

Read more: Bahrain doctors sentenced to 15 years

Ms Al-Khawaja – whose father, brother-in-law, and uncle have been imprisoned for life in Bahrain – went on to accuse King Al-Khalifa of failing to implement reforms in 2001.

Speaking at the presentation of the commission King Hamad bin Al Khalifa accepted the recommendations of the panel, calling the presentation of the findings a “historic” in Bahrain’s history.

He said he “never wants to see civilians being tried out of civilian courts again,” recommending a review of sentences and a national reconciliation programme.

The King also called for a review of other laws to ban “all forms of mistreatment” to make sure torture and abuse would never happen again.

Laws to protect freedom of expression should also be established in line with the reports recommendations, the King added.

Meanwhile one man died in A’ali near Manama during a planned demonstration to coincide with the release of the report.