A commission tasked by Bahrain to investigate weeks of protests that rocked the island kingdom said yesterday it would look at the role of the security forces in the unrest and examine charges of torture.
At a news conference marking the launch of the five-member panel’s investigation, chairman Cherif Bassiouni said his team would look at 30 police officers being investigated by the interior ministry for allegedly not following procedures.
He said the army would also be investigated.
“We will investigate the role of the army. The army is not above the law and not beyond the law,” Bassiouni said, adding most of the incidents under investigation happened while the military was in charge.
The Bahrain government imposed martial law and crushed weeks of protests led mostly by the Shia community in March, lifting the state of emergency some four months later.
During the crackdown, hundreds of people were arrested, most of them Shias.
King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifah set up the panel of human rights and legal experts last month.
Panel chief Bassiouni is an Egyptian-American law professor and UN war crimes expert who was involved in the formation of the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) and recently headed a UN inquiry into events in Libya.
The commission also includes Canadian judge and former ICC president Philippe Kirsch, British human rights lawyer Nigel Rodley, Iranian lawyer Mahnoush Arsanjani and Kuwaiti Islamic law expert Badria al-Awadhi.
Bahrain has said it will give the commission access to official files and allow it to meet witnesses in secret. But opposition groups have argued bias may mar a mission set up by the government.
Bassiouni said the panel was investigating the 33 deaths recorded during the protests and crackdown, as well as 400 cases of injuries. He also said the commission would investigate claims of torture in detention, including of several medical workers.
“(The mandate) also includes a number of allegations of torture including that of the offences which occurred against medical personnel, which are well documented by international human rights groups,” Bassiouni told reporters.
Bahrain denies any systematic abuse by police and has said all charges of torture will be investigated.
The government has accused protesters of a sectarian agenda backed by Iran.
Bassiouni told reporters the panel would hand over its report to the king in October but said the real task would be to act on the commission’s recommendations.