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Probe blames both sides for 'unpredictable' events

Manama, November 24, 2011

Both sides were responsible for the "unpredictable" events of February and March in Bahrain, according to international experts who probed the unrest.

They said security forces responded in a manner that suggested they were not prepared for such a situation. As a result, the heavy deployment of Public Security forces and confrontation with demonstrators led to the death of civilians.

"There is no doubt that what occurred in February/March and subsequently was the result of an escalating process in which both the government and the opposition have their share of responsibility in allowing events to unfold as they did," said the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).

The findings and recommendations were read out by BICI head and former chairman of a UN fact-finding team into Libya Professor Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni.

He said the observations concluded many human rights violations were committed during the State of National Safety.

"Many detainees were subjected to torture and other forms of physical and psychological abuse while in custody," said Prof Bassiouni.

The commission stated this "systematic practice" ceased after June 10. However, the mistreatment has reportedly continued in police stations with investigators receiving 559 complaints concerning the mistreatment of people in custody.

"The Interior Ministry opened investigations into cases of alleged torture," said Prof Bassiouni. He revealed that despite 10,831 allegations of torture, no prosecutions ensued.

The commission stated the "lack of accountability" of officials within Bahrain's security system had led to a culture of impunity.

It also received evidence indicating that, in some cases, judicial staff and prosecutors "may" have implicitly condoned this lack of accountability.

"Whether the judicial system became overwhelmed by the events of February/ March or whether it failed to rise to the challenge of the situation as a result of its weaknesses, needs to be determined," said Prof Bassiouni.

He said between March 21 and April 15 security forces systematically raided houses in order to arrest suspects and in doing so "terrified" occupants.

"These arrests were performed during the night and in pre-dawn raids by hooded persons, who intentionally broke down doors, forcibly entered and sometimes ransacked the houses," he added.

The BICI report also looked into the arrests carried out by Bahrain's police force, in which 2,929 people were taken into custody during the unrest out of which 2,178 were released without charge.

It also revealed the government withheld information about people arrested from their families, but found no evidence of "enforced disappearances".

The BICI inspected 30 demolished places of worship, which, according to the government, had stored weapons such as Molotov cocktails and were used as staging grounds to launch attacks on police.

Only five of them were found to have legal permits, but Prof Bassiouni said the commission was concerned about the timing of the demolitions given the inflammation of tension between the government and Bahrain's Shi'ite population.

The report also confirmed the wave of strikes that occurred during February and March were legal, despite the government claiming they violated the country's Labour Law.

During the unrest, 2,075 public sector workers were dismissed out of which 1,682 were reinstated. However, of the 2,464 private sector employees, none have been reinstated.

The commission has been informed the Labour Ministry is working on having those sacked reinstated.

It also found evidence that the Sunni community had been the target of verbal abuse, physical attacks, harassments and attacks on their property by demonstrators.

"The Sunni community was targeted for professing their loyalty to the ruling family and due to the perception that all Sunnis are agents of the government," said Prof Bassiouni.

"It was also evident that medical care was denied to Sunni patients during the unrest."

Other observations noted expatriates, especially Asians, were also the target of attacks during the unrest due to the fact that some Pakistanis work in the BDF or police force.

Four Asians were killed and many sustained injuries due to mob attacks. - TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | Probe | Security Forces |

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