Bahrain on Thursday stopped bringing anti-government protesters to trial at a special tribunal with military prosecutors, a lawyer said.
The tribunal was set up in March when the Bahrain government imposed martial law to help quash protests by the opposition demanding political freedoms.
A lawyer for a doctor who is among 47 health professionals on trial said the proceedings have been moved to civilian courts. The medical staff are charged with participating in an effort to topple Bahrain’s government.
A hearing in the case of 20 doctors set for Thursday was cancelled, the lawyer said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The decision to shift trials to civilian courts comes as the government tries to open reconciliation talks with the opposition.
In an apparent effort to draw opposition groups into the government-sponsored talks, His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on Wednesday announced the creation of an independent commission that will investigate allegations that protesters’ rights were violated during the deadly crackdown on anti-government unrest.
The commission will be given access to official files and be able to meet witnesses in secret, the government said on Thursday.
“Few regimes have taken it upon themselves to examine the causes and consequences of unrest taking place during the course of their governance,” Bahrain’s government said in a statement. “It is hoped that this initiative provides the forum to alleviate some of the tensions created by the events of the last few months.”
Heading the commission will be law professor M. Cherif Bassiouni, an Egyptian-American who was involved in the formation the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) and recently headed a UN inquiry into events in Libya. None on the panel are Bahraini. Canadian judge and former ICC President Phillipe Kirsch, human rights lawyer Nigel Simon Rodley, Iranian lawyer Mahnoush Arsanjani and Kuwaiti Islamic law expert Badria Al Awadhi are the other panel members.
The government’s appeal for dialogue, set to begin on Saturday, got a cool reception from opposition groups. The leaders of the opposition group, Al Wefaq, have not yet decided whether they will join the talks.