Protests roil Bahrain after report's release

Police fire tear gas and rubber bullets after funeral mourners in A'ali village march to main road.

Police in Bahrain have fired tear gas, sound bombs and rubber bullets at around 2,000 people protesting against the monarchy in the wake of a report into government human-rights abuses earlier this year. Protesters in the village of A'ali took part in a march on Thursday following the funeral for a man who had died the day before when his car was allegedly run off the road by police. "Literally moments after the funeral, a crowd of about 100 people took to the main road of A'ali to demonstrate," Al Jazeera's Gregg Carlstrom reported from the village. "The police, present in the village with at least 12 jeeps, responded by firing tear gas, sound bombs and rubber bullets at the demonstrators." Police conducted house to house searches and arrested a number of people, Carlstrom said. "The police are still blocking the main road in and out of the village," he said. "It is quiet now but the protests are expected to flare up again later this evening." Abdulnabi Kadhum Akel died of his injuries when a police car rammed his vehicle into a house. Police said it was an accident, but wintesses claim that they were prevented from offering him help. After Akel's funeral, mourners chanted "Down with Hamad," a reference to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and "leave, you murderer".
According to the government-sponsored Independent Commission of Inquiry, which on Wednesday released its report into the spring crackdown on a mostly Shia uprising, Bahraini security forces used "excessive force" and tortured detainees. The mass demonstrations which rocked the Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab kingdom in March were violently crushed as government forces used live ammunition and heavy-handed tactics to scatter protesters.

Bassiouni cursed

As police swept through A'ali, residents cursed the commission's lead investigator, well-known Egyptian human rights lawyer Cherif Bassiouni. "This is Bassiouni's tear gas," they screamed, according to our correspondent. Matthew Cassel, a freelance journalist also reporting from A'ali, said that no one in the village was optismistic that Bassiouni's investigation would bring change. Responding to the inquiry's findings on Wednesday, an official spokesman said the Bahrain government accepted the criticisms. The king, speaking after Bassiouni delivered his report, pledged that officials involved in the abuses would be held accountable and replaced. In his remarks, Hamad blamed much of the unrest on efforts by Iran to incite violence, but said laws would be reviewed and if necessary revised. "We do not want, ever again, to see our country paralysed by intimidation and sabotage ... nor do we want, ever again, to discover that any of our law enforcement personnel have mistreated anyone," he said. "Therefore, we must reform our laws so that they are consistent with international standards to which Bahrain is committed by treaties." Hamad established the five-member commission in June to investigate "whether the events of February and March 2011 [and thereafter] involved violations of international human rights law and norms". The report blamed the opposition for not having accepted the Bahraini crown prince’s initiative in March which it says might have led to a peaceful solution. It also mentioned instances of aggression against the Sunnis of Bahrain as well as foreign workers.

Inquiry findings

Bassiouni said the death toll from the month-long unrest reached 35, including five security personnel. Hundreds more were injured. The findings, which studied events in February and March, said that 11 other people were killed later. The commission concluded that a total of 2,929 people were detained during the protest movement, at least 700 remain in prison. Investigations conducted by the panel revealed that security forces "used excessive force" while "many detainees were tortured", Bassiouni said. In March, Bahraini security forces boosted by some 1,000 Gulf troops crushed the uprising in Manama's Pearl Square, the epicentre of the anti-government movement. Bassiouni said the commission found no evidence that Gulf troops violated human rights. "The commission did not find any proof of human rights violations caused by the presence of the Peninsula Shield forces," he said.