Bahrain's king sets up commission in wake of human rights report

Story highlights

  • The new committee is expected to complete its work before the end of February
  • It will look at recommendations of an earlier commission and make suggestions
  • People were tortured and mistreated by security forces, the first report found
Bahrain's king, Hamad al-Khalifa, on Saturday ordered that a committee be established to "follow up and implement" the recommendations contained within a highly-critical report released this week by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry.
The new group is expected to complete its work before the end of February, according to a statement from the king's office.
It will look at the commission's recommendations and make its own suggestions, "including the recommendations to make the necessary amendments to the legislation and the application of the recommendations," the statement read.
The king's order comes just days after the independent panel issued its report, which found that police tortured and used excessive force against civilians arrested during a crackdown on protests this year.
The abuses of detainees included beatings with metal pipes and batons, threats of rape and electrocution, commission chairman Prof. Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni said Wednesday.
There were also instances of physical and psychological torture, he said, intended to extract information or to punish those held by security forces.
The highly-critical report recommended a series of reforms to the country's legal code and better training of its security forces, which have not yet been held accountable for alleged abuses.
Protests demanding political reform and greater freedoms in Sunni-ruled, Shiite-majority Bahrain began February 14 before authorities -- backed by troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- cracked down in two waves, first in February and later in mid-March.
Thirty civilians and five security officers were killed in that time, the commission said.
Opposition groups say more than 1,000 people -- mainly Shiites -- have been detained for allegedly taking part in the demonstrations. A number of medical personnel have been convicted of trying to overthrow the government.
Thousands of private and public sector workers were also fired for allegedly participating in the protests and many students were barred from continuing their studies, Bassiouni said.
The commission also found evidence of the Sunnis, generally, were harassed during the crackdown, he added.
This "collective punishment" included destruction of 30 religious sites, according to Bassiouni, and led to heightened tensions between the government and people.
Foreigners working in Bahrain, including some from South Asia, were also subjected to racist abuse and attacks, the commission found.
The king set up the original commission to investigate the events -- and consequences -- of the unrest earlier this year.
Speaking after the report was released, he vowed that mistreatment of detainees would no longer be tolerated.
"We are determined, God willing, to ensure that the painful events our beloved nation has just experienced are not repeated, but that we learn from them, and use our new insights as a catalyst for positive change," the king said.