Bahrain vows action on abuses
Manama, November 21, 2011
Bahrain said on Monday that there had been instances of use of excessive force during the recent unrest in the kingdom and action will be taken against officials responsible.
'The government has carried out its own assessments and conducted its own investigations. These investigations have revealed things to praise as well as things to deplore,' said a cabinet statement.
The statement, published on Bahrain News Agency website, comes as the Kingdom awaited the release of an independent report on the unrest.
'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,' it went on.
The statement said the penal code would be amended to outlaw torture and the government would set up a National Human Rights Institution.
The report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Investigation (BICI) is due to be presented to His Majesty King Hamad at a formal ceremony in his palace on Wednesday. The king requested the formation of the commission, led by eminent international rights lawyers, in June.
The cabinet statement said police had suffered over 800 casualties and accused opposition protesters of provocation.
'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,' it said.
'The police have suffered 846 injuries since the beginning of the events; four deaths; innumerable threats and insults, especially to their families.'
The government does not seek to excuse any wrongdoing. The BICI has stated publicly that it has investigated the instances of mistreatment, it said.
'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.
'Over the past several months, we as a government and as a nation have already taken significant steps to address and remedy injustice within our 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,' it said.
The statement said there are also before 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 criminalised, 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 His Majesty’s Government, ensuring greater openness and accountability,' the statement said.
'There is 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,' it said.
These amendments will be accompanied by stricter sentencing for those that commit torture, together with the lifting of the limitation period for claims of torture, it said.
The National Human Rights Institution will be truly independent of the government and which will be tasked with promoting and enhancing human rights within the kingdom.
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 government said.
'We look forward Wednesday to an independent and honest assessment of the events our country has witnessed. 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.' - Reuters and TradeArabia News Service