3/20/2012

Bahrain praises its progress toward reforms

AL JAZEERA 
King Hamad says commission's report on tackling police abuse and politicised sackings is an "impressive beginning".

Bahrain has claimed "significant and broad progress" toward reforms in a report following up earlier recommendations to correct widespread abuse committed during the government's crackdown on pro-democracy protests last year.


The report, submitted by the National Commission to King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa on Tuesday, is meant to gauge what progress the government has made since November, when the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) issued the results of its investigation.
The independent commission, led by well-known human rights lawyer Cherif Bassiouny, recommended investigating claims of torture, ending arbitrary detention, and reviewing cases tried in military courts.
Al Jazeera's Mohamed Vall, reporting from Manama, said King Hamad "gave a very clear, strong statement about the improvements that have been taking place".
The government has conducted police trainings, released prisoners, improved prison environments, set up a fund to compensate torture victims and reinstated some employees who lost their jobs for allegedly sympathising with the protests, Vall said.
Ali Saleh al-Saleh, head of the National Commission, said he "received utmost co-operation and transparency from the government".

'Significant progress'

King Hamad welcomed National Commission's evaluation, saying "significant and broad progress" had been made.
"Your report, which we received today, demonstrates the impressive beginning of the positive change that we hoped to see," he said. "This has included security and judicial reform, enhancing educational curricula, establishing a detailed plan to reform the media, [and] working tirelessly to ensure that employees are reinstated."


The government says it has fulfilled most of the requirements, and a new website touts its progress.
"I would say about 90 per cent of the recommendations have been implemented. It’s been hard. We’ve had to swallow a lot of pride," said Abdelaziz bin Mubarak al-Khalifa, an official from Bahrain’s information affairs authority.
Bahrain's main opposition groups, however, said they will only negotiate with the government after all political prisoners are released.
Abdul Jalil Khalil, the head of Al Wefaq parliament bloc that resigned last year, told Al Jazeera he was not happy with the reforms but that "full implementation" of BICI's recommendations might not be enough.
“BICI deals with violations and human rights abuses committed by the Bahraini security forces in cracking down on protests. But, what the opposition really wants is more serious political change that will give them more say in parliament and government," he said.
Inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, the kingdom's predominantly Shia population took to the streets in February 2011, demanding greater freedoms.
The authorities responded by launching a crackdown, described by many as brutal and excessive, killing dozens of unarmed protesters.
In the face of a global outcry, King Hamad set up an independent commission of inquiry to probe allegations of excesses. The report confirmed cases of torture and illegal detentions and embarrassed the country's ruling Sunni elite.