Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Report: Bahrain used 'excessive force' to suppress pro democracy demonstrations

Video of Bahraini security  forces deliberately shooting with live ammunition at protesters, 18 February 2011.

The security forces in Bahrain used excessive force to suppress demonstrations for reform earlier this.year and used torture among other things to obtain confessions. That is the conclusion of a panel of inquiry that published its report today, Wednesday. The panel was led by the Egyptian-American law expert Cherif Bassiouni and formed and funded by Bahrain's government five months ago in an attempt to address charges of human rights abuses during the crackdown.

Inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Bahrainis took to the streets in February to protest against the government, triggering a crackdown in March that included mass unrests and the use of force. In Bahrain the majority is Shiite, while the governing elite is Sunni. The ruling family accused Iran of instigating the unrising.  It was the worst unrest in Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is based, since sectarian-tinged political violence shook the kingdom in the mid-1990s. Bahrain called in Saudi and UAE troops to help crush the protests. The panel said 35 people were killed, including five security personnel. It urged a review of sentences handed down to those held responsible for the turmoil.
 The United States has said a $53 million arms deal depends on what the report says. Bahrain has already admitted security forces used excessive force in some cases, while denying any coordinated policy of torture. In a statement issued on Monday it said that 'the government had 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. Twenty prosecutions against the officers involved have been initiated," the statement said.

It remains questionable whether the conclusions of the report could not have been reached without this inquiry. Also it remains to be seen whether the ruling family of Al-Khalifah is going to do anything to pimprove gthe sitaution. The complete report (almost 500 pages) can be found here.

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