7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
Local News

Probe panel hits back at critics

AN independent commission probing unrest since February has hit back at critics who have accused it of being too close to the government. Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) chairman Professor Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni has come under fire from some in the opposition for publicly acknowledging the co-operation of Bahraini authorities.

However, the commission yesterday issued a statement in which it denied that it was "prejudging the outcome of the inquiry".

It stressed the probe was going ahead independently and without interference from Bahrain or any other party.

"The BICI chairman has publicly credited the Ministry of Interior, National Security Agency, the Attorney General and the Military Prosecutor General for their co-operation, and it is only fair to do so," it said.

"This should not be interpreted by anyone as covering up or overlooking the responsibility of any organisation or any person for any illegal act."

The commission has so far received 300 complaints from dismissed Bahraini staff and recorded 140 allegations of mistreatment in prisons and police stations.

Its team has also met more than 200 people in detention centres and hospitals, as well as 50 senior government officials - including several members of the Cabinet.

"The BICI has not reached any final conclusions," added the statement.

"Its work continues to be independent and free from any interference, either by the government of Bahrain, any other government, or any interest group, either within or outside of Bahrain."

The BICI said its conclusions and recommendations would be presented once investigations are complete.

"We have taken and will continue to take all possible measures to safeguard the confidentiality of all information received," added the BICI statement.

Four other senior members of the commission are former International Criminal Court president Judge Phillipe Kirsch, former UN special rapporteur on human rights Sir Nigel Rodley, international legal expert Dr Mahnoush Arsanjani and Sharia (Islamic law) specialist Dr Badria Al Awadhi.

They are expected to arrive in Bahrain soon to oversee progress of the investigation.

Meanwhile, a BICI spokeswoman confirmed that its secretary-general Kamran Chaudhary resigned and left Bahrain on Wednesday.

However, she said he left for purely personal reasons and on good terms.

"We are not going to make any further staff appointment as there is not enough time," she said.

The BICI investigative team includes six non-Bahraini Arabic speakers who have been conducting interviews.

They have met with 18 opposition groups and civil society organisations, 90 students who have been suspended from their studies and 105 people dismissed from their jobs.

Last week, 151 prisoners were released form custody including 137 detainees charged with misdemeanours.

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry is probing allegations of physical abuse by two police officers and 10 policemen.

The BICI had set a deadline of October 30 to complete its investigations into the events since February and submit a final report to His Majesty King Hamad, before it is made public.

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