A commission investigating human rights abuses during the pro-democracy Shia-led protests earlier this year in Bahrain has found that “excessive force” and torture were used on detainees. Hundreds of detainees have been “blindfolded, whipped, kicked, given electric shocks and threatened with rape to extract confessions.” The 500-page report also detailed purges of protesters from jobs and universities, widespread arrests and the destruction of Shiite mosques. In addition, it found that there were no Iranian links to the protests.
The Bahraini government has said that it “welcomes” the finding of the Independent Commission of Inquiry’s report and “acknowledges its criticisms.”
At least 35 people were killed during the unrest; in March, Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy called in 1,000 troops from other Gulf nations including Saudi Arabia and imposed martial law, which was not lifted until June. Hundreds, including doctors, nurses, medical professionals and athletes have been detained; three people have received death sentences and prominent human rights activists have been given life sentences.
Bahrain is an island nation with a population of about 525,000; Shiites make up about 70 percent of the population but have long said they are routinely discriminated against in government and military positions. A critical ally of the US, Bahrain houses the US Navy’s 5th Fleet and Washington has taken a “cautious line” so far, with vague calls for “more dialogue” with the opposition. US lawmakers have put a $53 million arms sale with Bahrain on hold until the release of the report.
Critics of the commission have already expressed distrust of the report due to statements about torture by Cherif Bassiouni, the Egyptian judge heading the commission. In August, Bassioni said that there was “no evidence of routine torture” in Bahrain; earlier this month, he said that torture was a “systematic policy.” Critics are also wary because the commission’s members were all appointed by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain, and position leaders have called for protests. Clashes had already occurred in two Shia villages on the outskirts of the capital of Manama just hours before the report was issued; one person died in the village of A’ali, when his car was allegedly run off the road by police officers and crashed into a house.
The King has vowed that there will be reforms. On Monday, the government announced that all forms of torture would be illegal and that those who commit such acts would incur more stringent penalties. Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, praised the call to ban torture but also said that the “report would limit itself to a handful of low-level targets.”
Dictator Hamad, if u respect our rights, respect our right in choosing our leader and leave the throne.
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