BAHRAIN: Progress Update on Implementation of BICI Recommendations

Manama: Dec. 28 -- (BNA) The Government of Bahrain is committed to implementing the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) Report in their entirety. In the month since the Report was published, significant progress has been made. Action has been taken in relation to every recommendation.
In order to ensure that international best practices are adopted, and that these are institutionalized, assistance has been sought from prominent experts and leading organisations from around the world. Assistance Agreements have already been concluded with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Further agreements are due to be signed imminently with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and other eminent international experts and organizations. A number of UN organisations have already conducted visits in the country in the past month, which has been extensively reported upon by the press.
Key achievements of the Government to date include taking the following important steps:
1. Accountability is an important part of the Government’s commitment. For this reason the world’s leading jurists and political and social scientists have been gathered to formulate an effective independent mechanisms to determine accountability as envisaged in several recommendations of the BICI Report, including the recommendations in paragraphs 1716, 1717, 1718(b) 1722(b). These jurists are already in the country studying the environment to tailor the necessary solutions.
2. A decree will shortly be issued setting out the mechanism for the National Victims Compensation Fund, which represents international best practices of administration of redress mechanisms (recommendation 1722 j and k). This Fund will incorporate the best practices gained from the ICC Fund, and the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Redress and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law.
3. Instituting a demonstrable zero tolerance policy towards torture, inhuman treatment and degrading detention practices. This includes:
a. Transferring all pending cases of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment from the Ministry of Interior to the Attorney General’s office. Legislative amendments are being drafted so that all such cases will automatically fall within the jurisdiction of the Attorney General (recommendation in paragraph 1719).
b. Ordering audio visual equipment to ensure that all official interviews with suspects, witnesses or detainees will be recorded (paragraph 1722 g).
c. Instructing the Inspector General to take all necessary steps to ensure the rights of all suspects, including their right to: not be detained incommunicado; be shown a warrant upon arrest; be given prompt access to their lawyers; and allowed family visits in accordance with the Bahrain Code of Criminal Procedure. Many other amendments to the procedures for arrest, detention and training required for security personnel are currently underway (paragraph 1722 d).
d. Instructing the Chief of Public Security to facilitate the following with the aid of international experts and specialists (paragraph 1722 c):
i. To design and carry out a legal training course for public security personnel in order to enhance the protection of human rights, especially in the context of public order, detention and interrogation.
ii. To prepare and issue the police code of conduct in compliance with UN best practices, including the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
e. Training security force personnel with the assistance of newly appointed police experts John Timoney (from the United States) and John Yates (from the United Kingdom). The Bahrain Defence Force is working to develop similar programmes.
4. Cultivating a discernible civic spirit of free people expressing their opinions without fear or favor. This includes:
a. Dropping all charges relating to free speech, with cases only being pursued against those persons accused of violent crimes as confirmed by the Attorney General. This decision benefits 343 people (paragraph 1722 h).
b. Reinstating all public sector employees by 1 January 2012 charged with free speech activity (paragraph 1723 a).
c. Signing contracts with leading international and regional news and feature channels and broadcast outlets guaranteeing a pluralist, inclusive media environment that encourages responsible journalism while minimizing speech inciting hatred, and sectarianism. This is just the start, with amendments to the legal framework to follow (1724 a b c)
5. Ensuring an inclusive society where fundamental human freedoms endure. This includes:
a. Reinstating all students not charged with criminal acts and readmitting those charged after a reasonable period of time and in accordance with international best practices (paragraph 1723 c) .
b. Rebuilding demolished religious structures. A Committee to review the question has been formed. One area (Hamad Town) has already been reviewed and construction has started on four sites, with more to come (paragraph 1723 d).
6. Instituting civilian control over law enforcement and conviction powers. This includes:
a. Limiting the mandate of the National Security Agency to intelligence gathering with no law enforcement and arrest powers (paragraph 1718).
Bahrain Government is looking forward to implement the BICI recommendations and implementations with full support from all the Bahraini and international community.