Statement on the work of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry
1. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) today, 23 November at 15:00, submitted its final report to His Majesty King Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa and, at 17:30, released it, in its entirety, to the public. The report has been issued in both print and electronically, and is available in whole via the Commission’s website: http://bici.org.bh/.
The Establishment and Mandate of BICI:
2. The Commission was established pursuant to Royal Order No. 28 of 29 June 2011 to investigate human rights violations that occurred during the events that occurred in Bahrain in February and March and related subsequent events. The establishment of a national commission of inquiry comprised solely of non-nationals as commissioners at the initiative of a State to review interactions between government authorities and its citizens in a set of events is unprecedented.
3. The members of the Commission are: Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni (Chair), Dr. Badria A. Al-Awadhi, Dr. Mahnoush H. Arsanjani, Judge Philippe Kirsch Q.C. and
Professor Sir Nigel Rodley KBE. The independence of the Commission was ensured by Royal Decree No. 28 of 2011 which guarantees that the Commission is wholly independent of any government. The Commissioners served in their personal capacities and not as representatives of any government or other institution. The Commission had full independence and control over all aspects of its work including the hiring and retention of its staff.
4. The Commission, under the terms of Article 1 of Royal Order No. 28, was given a wide-ranging mandate “to investigate and report on the events occurring in Bahrain in February/March 2011, and any subsequent consequences arising out of the aforementioned events, and to make such recommendations as it may deem appropriate.” In addition to these general terms, the Commission was directed, under Article 9 of the Royal Order, to report on a number of specific matters, to include the following:
a) A complete narrative of the events that occurred during February and March, 2011;
b) The context for these events;
c) Whether during these events there have been violations of international human rights norms by any participants during the events or in the interaction between the public and the government;
d) A description of any acts of violence that have occurred including the nature of the acts, how they occurred, who the actors were and what consequences derived therefrom, in particular at the Salmaniya Hospital and the GCC Roundabout;
e) Instances of alleged police brutality and alleged violence by protestors and/or demonstrators against police and others, including foreigners;
f) The circumstances and appropriateness of arrests and detentions;
g) Examination of allegations of disappearances or torture;
h) Ascertain whether there was any media harassment, whether audiovisual or written, against participants in demonstrations and public protests;
i) Examination of alleged unlawful demolition of religious structures; and
j) Ascertain any involvement of foreign forces and foreign actors in the events.
5. The list in article 9 sets out matters related to conduct that, by its very nature, is undertaken by government and public officials. Consequently, most Chapters of the Report and its findings and, in particular, its recommendations focus on the Government of Bahrain, the actions that its agencies have taken in the past and the steps
that it should take in the future.
6. The Commission was also invited to identify areas of law, administration and practice which should be considered for reform and to make recommendations to the Government in this regard. Under Article 10 of Royal Order No. 28, the recommendations of the Commission also may extend to proposals for further national-level investigations and for prosecution of any person found to have committed violations of human rights.
7. The Commission received 8,110 complaints and statements alleging various human rights abuses relevant to its mandate: allegations of deaths, torture, verbal abuse, physical mistreatment, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, rape, misuse of authority and excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests and detention, enforced disappearances, coerced statements, unfair trial, denial of assistance of legal counsel, deprivation and destruction of private property, demolition of religious structures, expulsion or suspension of students and revocation of their scholarships, dismissal or suspension of employees from public and private sectors, restriction on free speech and assembly, media harassment, and travel bans. The allegations received by the Commission included violations by public authorities as well as by some private and groups against another group.
Structure of the Report
8. The report of the Commission is divided into the following 12 Chapters:
Chapter I. Introduction
Chapter II. Historical Background
Chapter III. Relevant Aspects of the Legal System and Description of the Enforcement Structures
Chapter IV. Narrative of Events of February and March 2011
Chapter V. Events at Salmaniya Medical Complex
Chapter VI. Allegations of Human Rights Violations Against the Person
A. Deaths Arising out of the Events
B. Use of Force by Government Actors
C. Manner of Arrests
D. Treatment of Persons in Custody
E. Detention and Prosecution in Connection with Expression, Association and Assembly
F. Allegation of Enforced Disappearances
Chapter VII. Other Human Rights Issues
A. Demolition of Religious Structures
B. Terminations of Public and Private Sector Employment
C. Dismissals of Students and Suspension of Scholarships
Chapter VIII. Allegations of Violence by Non-Governmental Actors
A. Attacks on Expatriates
B. Attacks on Sunni Community
Chapter IX. Allegations of Involvement by Foreign Forces and Foreign Actors
Chapter X. Allegations of Media Harassment
Chapter XI. Measures and Remedies Undertaken by the Government
Chapter XII. General Observations and Recommendations
Content of the Report
9. Each Chapter and Section of the Report dealing with specific categories of events concludes with findings as well as specific recommendations pertaining to the subject matter covered therein. This organization should not obscure the fact that the Report is a comprehensive and integrated text that should be read in its entirety. The general observations, findings and conclusions, and general recommendations at the end of the report should be viewed in connection with the specific findings and conclusions and recommendations contained in each Chapter and Section.
10. Chapter I describes the organizational and operational aspects of the work of the Commission. A brief historical background of Bahrain has been provided in Chapter II. This Chapter describes, among others, economic and social issues; religious and sectarian composition and political activities. Chapter III presents an overall view of the relevant aspects of the legal system of Bahrain and its enforcement structure. It also describes the relevant international law obligations of Bahrain and those parts of its national law applicable to the events of February/March. This Chapter deals with the scope and content of Royal Decree No. 18 of 2011 on the declaration of a State of National Safety and the manner by which it was implemented. Chapter IV of the Report provides a day by day narrative of the events that took place in February and March 2011, followed by the Commission’s general observations on how events evolved and escalated, followed, in turn, by the initiative of HRH the Crown Prince to find a negotiated resolution of problems. Chapters II and IV provide a general context in which the events of February/March should be examined and understood. However, issues discussed in every Chapter should be viewed in the context specific to the event addressed therein in addition to the general context of the events.
11. Chapters VI to X address allegations of violations made against public authorities or against individuals or groups. Each Chapter is divided into various sections and each of which provides a factual background to the situation and the allegations made, followed by a description of applicable specific international and national law and the findings and conclusions of the Commission. Where the Commission is in a position to make specific recommendations, it does so under each section.
12. Chapters VI and VII deal with allegations of violations by public authorities. Chapter VI deals with human rights violations against the person. This Chapter deals with allegations of violations committed by public authorities, such as arbitrary death, use of force by government, manner by which arrests were made, treatment of detainees
while in custody; prosecution in connection with the exercise of the right to free expression, association and assembly, and enforced disappearance. Chapter VII addresses other human rights issues, such as demolition of religious structures, termination or suspension of employment of employees in the private and public sector and dismissal or suspension of students and revocation of their scholarship.
13. Chapter VIII deals with allegations of violence by non-governmental actors. It addresses complaints of attacks against expatriates and attacks against the Sunni
14. Chapter IX addresses the allegations with respect to involvements of foreign forces and actors. Chapter X deals with allegations of media harassment. It addresses allegations of harassment and defamation of pro- and anti-government journalists, bias on the part of State-controlled media, censorship and social media.
15. Chapter XI takes stock of measures taken by government to address some of the issues raised with regard to the events of February/March and its related consequences.
16. The final Chapter, Chapter XII, provides a summary and an overview of the Commission’s observations and an overview of recommendations. Those recommendations
address general and structural issues relating to due process, independent and impartial supervisory bodies to deal with violations by governmental authorities and training for security forces. The Commission’s recommendations also include effective investigation into violations by government authority with respect to torture and similar ill-treatment and excessive and disproportionate use of force, in particular lethal or potentially lethal force, against civilians, capable of leading to the prosecution of the implicated individuals, both direct and at all levels of responsibility, with a view to ensuring that punishment be consistent with the gravity of the offence. The Commission also recommended to the Government the development of a national reconciliation programme that addresses the grievances of groups which are, or perceive themselves, to be deprived of equal political, social and economic rights and benefits across all segments of Bahrain’s population. The Commission has further recommended that compensation and reparation should be provided to the families of the deceased, victims of torture, ill-treatment or prolonged incommunicado detention.
17. Recommendations of the Commission on specific issues appear at the end of each Chapter, or Section. The more general recommendations of the Commission and illustrative recommendations on particular issues are included in Chapter XII.
18. The Commission wishes to express appreciation for the cooperation it has received in the performance of its mandate from the Government of Bahrain, various political, religious and human rights organizations and the individual victims who approached the Commission. Without the assistance and cooperation of these authorities, groups and individuals, the Commission would have faced almost insuperable obstacles to the discharge of its mandate.