Bahrain used "excessive force" in crackdown - inquiry

MANAMA Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:05am IST

Related Topics

MANAMA (Reuters) - Bahrain's security forces used excessive force to suppress pro-democracy protests earlier this year, torturing detainees to get confessions, an inquiry panel charged with investigating abuses said on Wednesday.

The government commissioned report, designed to help heal sectarian divisions between the island kingdom's Sunni rulers and majority Shi'ites, acknowledged five people had been tortured to death but said abuses were isolated incidents.

However the inquiry panel, led by Egyptian-American international law expert Cherif Bassiouni, dismissed Bahrain's allegation of Iranian interference in fomenting unrest, saying that was not supported by any evidence.

"In many cases security agencies in the government of Bahrain resorted to excessive and unnecessary force," Bassiouni said at the king's palace, adding that some detainees suffered electric shocks, and beatings with rubber hoses and wires.

Bahrain's Shi'ite-led opposition reacted cooly to the report, some saying it did not go far enough while others complained that those responsible for the abuses remained in office.

Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the Shi'ite Wefaq bloc which quit parliament over the unrest, said: "We cannot say Bahrain is turning a new leaf yet...because the government that carried out all those abuses is definitely not fit to be given the responsibility of implementing recommendations."

Bahrain's Shi'ite majority, inspired by uprisings that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, took to the streets in February and March to demand political reforms but their protests quickly escalated into the worst sectarian political violence since the mid-1990s.

The ruling al-Khalifa family responded by declaring martial law and called in troops from fellow Sunni Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as it set about crushing the protests.

The inquiry panel said there was no official policy of abuse during the widespread unrest, led by Bahrain's majority Shi'ite population demanding an end to sectarian discrimination and demanding a greater say in government. A few Shi'ite groups called for the abolition of the monarchy altogether.

The panel - which said 35 people were killed, including five security personnel - urged a review of sentences handed down on people arrested following the protests, when more than 2,000 state employees were also sacked, according to Bassiouni.

KING RENEWS ACCUSATION AGAINST IRAN

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, speaking after Bassiouni delivered his report, repeated the accusations against Iran, but said laws would be reviewed and if necessary revised in light of the unrest.

"We do not want, ever again, to see our country paralysed by intimidation and sabotage... nor do we want, ever again, to discover that any of our law enforcement personnel have mistreated anyone," he said.

"Therefore, we must reform our laws so that they are consistent with international standards to which Bahrain is committed by treaties," he said.

In a statement, Bahrain noted the inquiry showed five deaths during the unrest were the result of torture, but added: "The report does not confirm that there was a government policy of torture, mistreatment or using excessive force."

A section of the 500-page report found the security service and interior ministry "followed a systematic practice of physical and psychological mistreatment, which amounted in many cases to torture, with respect to a large number of detainees."

Bassiouni also echoed elements of the kingdom's narrative of the unrest, saying Sunnis were targeted for intimidation by protesters. These included foreigners, including Pakistanis that the opposition say were naturalised because they are fellow Sunnis and employed in security services.

The United States has said a $53 million arms deal depends on the delivery of the report, and Bahrain has already acknowledged security forces used excessive force in some cases, while consistently denying any coordinated policy of torture.

The report follows a state-orchestrated "national dialogue" in the wake of the unrest which opposition groups dismissed as a farce.

The crackdown has left Bahrain polarised along sectarian lines, with low expectations from both sides that the inquiry would lead to reconciliation.

"It should have criticised the opposition that claims to represent the Shi'a, it only criticised the government," said Sheikh Muhsin al-Asfoor, a pro-government Shi'ite cleric who advises the king on Shi'ite affairs.

Maryam al-Khawaja, an activist with a Bahraini human rights group, suggested the investigation wound up exonerating Bahrain rather than identifying abuses, noting on Twitter: "Minutes after [he] talked of violations...Hamad thanked the police."

(Reporting by Andrew Hammond and Warda al-Jawahiry; Writing by Joseph Logan and Reed Stevenson; editing by Jon Boyle)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Korean Boat Tragedy

Family members of a missing passenger onboard the South Korean ferry Sewol which capsized on Wednesday, look at the sea as they wait for news from a rescue team, at a port in Jindo April 19, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Sunken Korea ferry relatives give DNA swabs to help identify dead

Relatives of some of the more than 200 children missing in a sunken South Korean ferry offered DNA swabs on Saturday to help identify the dead as a rescue turned into a mission to recover the vessel and the bodies of those on board.  Full Article 

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Ferry Disaster

Ferry Disaster

Vice-principal of South Korea school in ferry disaster commits suicide.  Full Article 

Everest Avalanche

Everest Avalanche

Avalanche kills 12 guides in deadliest incident on Mount Everest.  Full Article 

Turkey Politics

Turkey Politics

Turkish president rules out role swap with Erdogan.  Full Article 

Mexico Earthquake

Mexico Earthquake

Powerful earthquake rattles Mexico, shakes buildings.  Full Article 

Missing Plane

Missing Plane

Drone risks damage at record depth in search for Malaysian plane.  Full Article 

Papal Message

Papal Message

Pope Good Friday service underscores plight of the suffering.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage