11/24/2011

Bassiouni: the Situation in Bahrain Is not Worth a Revolt

Manama, Nov. 24. (BNA) -- The opposition in Bahrain, particularly Al Wefaq Islamic Society, has lost a golden opportunity when it refused the call by HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa to dialogue before the outbreak of the incidents, Professor Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, the chair of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), said.

 The opposition was claiming that it had power and popularity to lead the street and influence public opinion while beating other political formations. It also believed that refusing the dialogue will enable it to make the maximum of gains thanks to pressure from the street. In an interview with Al Arabiya TV, Professor Basiouni, denied any interference by the government or any other party, in the work of the commission or its approaches towards the tasks it was assigned. The chairman said that before accepting the assignment, he presented to HM the King a list of ideas and demands that should enable his commission to assume its duties competently and guarantee its neutrality and independence. HM the King endorsed the move, he said. According to the legal expert, the formation of the commission is an unprecedented in the entire world as Bahrain called for it under a national decision, gave it all powers and allowed its members to enter all places, including police stations, detention centres and prisons at midnight and at any other time. The members could also meet employees or detainees or any other people and view all records. Talking about the attack on the commission offices, Bassiouni said that it was the result of incitement by people who had close ties with the opposition, specifically Al Wefaq Society, and by relatives of detainees held at Al Qurain prison at the time. Some of the commission members felt there was some kind of intimidation and pressure under the belief that questioning the credibility of the commission would cause it to bow to their views and to achieve their demands, he said. However, Bassiouni ruled out this option, saying that he did not accept pressure from any quarter, a fact that was eventually appreciated by the opposition. However, he said that the opposition continued to exercise pressure and its attacks shifted from the commission as an entity to its chairman on a personal level. For Bassiouni, the claim that the commission received $ 5 million for its work was baseless and lacked credibility, stressing that the budget never exceeded $1.3 for 41 employees who worked for more than five months. He challenged anyone to prove that an international commission would be able to work with such a limited budget. Referring to the events in the Salmaniya Medical Complex, he said that some doctors and paramedics at the hospital were engaged in politics and that the commission found cases where people were denied medical treatment on a sectarian basis, especially Asians who were beaten up and ill-treated at the complex. He emphasized that some medical staff allowed cameras inside the halls in violation of international laws related to the medical field. He said that there were specific attacks by some groups demonstrating at the Roundabout or the University of Bahrain on some individuals on the basis that they were Sunnis. Bassiouni cited the case of a university student who was hit by a mob who stormed the university. They continued to hit him even after he was transferred to the ambulance which transported him to the Roundabout for no real reason, except for unacceptable sectarian humiliation, he said. The commission leader also accused groups of Shias of killing four Asians, saying that it was incomprehensible. Others were also attacked as they were working in commercial streets near demonstration sites. This is unacceptable and it had sectarian and racist motivations, he said. Bassiouni said that the commission did not find an official systematic policy by the state on the cases of death it recorded. However, he did not deny the existence of cases in which there was abusive and excessive use of force. The report is clear about them, he said. There was no policy of systematic torture, Bassiouni said, even though he pointed to systematic practices. Around 300 detainees were tortured and around 600 abused and victims of force. In this regard, BICI Chairman denied that there were orders from the concerned authorities to commit torture and stressed that the Interior Ministry clearly and openly ordered the security officers to avoid such practices, affirming that the Interior Minister behaved in good faith and believed that his instructions were carried out accordingly. Answering a question on his impressions about the visits he made to some villages and areas that witnesses disturbances, Bassiouni said that they were demonstrations, but riots and violence. He explained there were acts of challenge and provocation to the police by what he described as young enthusiasts. According to Bassiouni, there were several instances of self-restraint and discipline success by the security agencies. He said that the commission noted that security leaders entered in negotiations with the protesters, and that not every soldier was armed, adding that the reaction of the security forces in the unrest in Greece, France and other countries was much stronger than what happened in Bahrain. In comments on the demolition of places of worship, Bassiouni said that many of these places were not dedicated to revering and that some of them were used for incitement and mobilization. Regardless of the destructions, the authorities have now put an end to that and His Majesty the King pledged to rebuild what was destroyed. Referring to the Iranian role in the incidents and its interference in Bahrain’s domestic affairs, Bassiouni said that there was an Iranian media campaign to support the Bahraini opposition. He added that there could be security reasons that prevented the authorities from presenting information that could confirm the existence of an Iranian instigation role. Bassiouni condemned the two cases of running over two policemen and denied allegations that the pictures were not genuine and that the cars ran over dummies. He also denied claims about the involvement of the Peninsula Shield forces in suppressing demonstrations, saying that they never came near the Roundabout and that they were stationed outside the capital. Bassiouni stressed that the Bahraini society was very tolerant of the commission, regardless of the charges leveled by the opposition to target its credibility. There was full cooperation between the commission and Al Wefaq society, he said, adding that the commission received more than 9,000 statements and that it met around 5,000 people. Such figures reflect the keen interest of the Bahraini people in cooperating with the commission, he said. Responding to the claims made by some people to revolt against the situation in Bahrain, Bassiouni said that it was not “worth it.” There is a need to understand the circumstances and to appreciate that despite the importance of the lives lost, there is not a case of a high number of deaths that warrants calls to revolt against the government, he said. Bahrain is not Rwanda, Cambodia or the former Yugoslavia, he said.