2/09/2012

HM King Hamad Lauded For Establishing Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry

Manama-Feb9-(BNA)A US official today lauded His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa for taking the initiative to establish the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, describing the panel as a “source of pride”. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner paid tribute to HM the King for accepting the BICI recommendations and forming a national commission charged with implementing them. “It is commendable for any government to invite and participate in an independent examination of its human rights record”, he said. During a press conference held at the Manama-based US Embassy, he voiced satisfaction over the progress achieved so far in implementing the recommendations, stressing the Government’s commitment to address the inherent causes underlying last year’s violence.

“This is my fourth visit to Bahrain in the last 14 months, and I welcome the opportunity to be here. Bahrain is an important partner of the United States. We have a long-standing alliance based on shared political economic and security interests. Both countries benefit from stability and prosperity here, and from a society where all people here are able to contribute to the political process”, he said, describing the Kingdom as a sovereign country.
During my three days in Manama, I have met with a number of senior government officials, including His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, the Ministers of Justice, Interior, Foreign Affairs, and Human Rights, the Attorney General, and the head of the Shura Council. I also met with lawyers, journalists, medical professionals, human rights advocates, and members of political societies, including the opposition.
My discussions focused on the implementation of the recommendations made in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report. As my government has said, it is a great credit to His Majesty King Hamad that he initiated the BICI process, accepted its recommendations and appointed a national commission to coordinate implementation of those recommendations. It is commendable for any government to invite and participate in an independent examination of its human rights record.

The government of Bahrain has taken many important steps toward the long-term institutional reforms identified in the report, such as removing arrest authority from the national security agency, drafting legislation concerning the investigation and prosecution of torture, and drafting a code of conduct for police based on international best practices. The government also has allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross access to its prisons. It has begun to rebuild religious sites, and engaged a team of qualified experts to advise on policing and legal reforms. These are signs of the government’s commitment to address the underlying cause of last year’s violence.

However, more needs to be done in several key areas. First, there are hundreds of pending criminal cases stemming from the events of February and March, including a substantial number where individuals remain in detention. The BICI report recommends that the government drop charges against all persons accused of offences involving political expression.

“Secondly, while the Ministry of the Interior is taking steps to enhance the professionalization of the police, it needs to do more. Escalating violence in the streets points to the need for steps that will begin to integrate the police force, as recommended in the BICI report, so that Bahrain can build a police force that reflects the diversity of the communities it serves”.

Third, with regard to the issue of dismissed workers, we urge the government, the General Federation of Bahraini Trade Unions and the private sector through the Tripartite Commission to continue to clarify and verify dismissals and reinstatements to the same or comparable positions.

Finally, we call on the government to continue to prosecute those officials responsible for the violations described in the BICI report.

The United States views the BICI report and its follow-up as a bold measure by the government to begin to rebuild confidence with the Bahraini people. Implementing these recommendations is not an easy task, and we commend the efforts undertaken so far to realize the goals of the BICI process. Ultimately, the goal of the BICI and implementation of its recommendations is to create a path toward genuine political dialogue and national reconciliation. “We condemn the violent street actions that have escalated in recent months and that have included attacks on police with Molotov cocktails, metal projectiles and other instruments of harm. Such violence undermines public safety and further divides society”. “We contacted Al-Wefaq Society and slammed the use of Molotov cocktails and escalating street violence to the point of becoming a daily phenomenon. We urged Al-Wefaq to assume its responsibility and call upon instigators of violence to refrain from such practices for the political crisis not to deteriorate further”. Mr. Posner lauded the Ministry of Interior for its close cooperation with the opposition-represented by Al-Wefaq Society- permitting peaceful demonstrations. He expressed the hope that the first anniversary of the deplorable February 14 incidents would be an opportunity to move forward, ushering in a brighter future in which all parties work with dedication toward their country’s progress and prosperity, urging all Bahraini citizens to refrain from violence. “Next Tuesday will mark the one-year anniversary of the first demonstrations in Bahrain. The days and weeks surrounding the anniversary are a moment for all Bahrainis in all segments of society to come together to move beyond the pain of last year and begin to forge a more peaceful, prosperous future through genuine dialogue”, he said. We renew our call on all parties, including the government, political societies and others to engage in dialogue and negotiation in which all elements of society have a real voice. This must be a process led by Bahrainis themselves. It will not be easy. And it can only succeed by building a greater degree of mutual respect and mutual trust. As a longtime friend of Bahrain, my government stands ready to support you.

AHN