Bahrain replaces security chief after crackdown probe

Gulf state shakeup follows report that exposed rights abuses during protests
Bahrain replaces security chief after crackdown probe
A flashback to the Bahrain uprisings in March
By Reuters
Tue 29 Nov 2011 07:17 AM

Bahrain's
King Hamad replaced the head of the state security apparatus on Tuesday as part
of a shakeup after an inquiry exposed widespread rights abuses during a
crackdown on Arab Spring protests led by majority Shi'ites.

The
Gulf Arab state has said it will comply with the findings of the Bahrain
Independent Commission of Inquiry, and is under pressure from its ally the
United States to show improvements in its rights record to secure a large arms
sale.

The
inquiry headed by international rights lawyers was set up after Bahrain faced
international criticism over imposing martial law and calling in Saudi and
United Arab Emirates forces to help end the protests.

Adel
bin Khalifa Hamad al-Fadhel was named head of the national security agency,
replacing Sheikh Khalifa bin Abdullah, a member of the ruling al-Khalifa
family. Sheikh Khalifa was made secretary general of Bahrain's Supreme Defence
Council and a national security advisor to the king.

The
government also said that the interior ministry was in the process of hiring
U.S. and British security experts to help police protect rights and freedoms
while enforcing order. It said a code of conduct would be developed for police.

Bahrain
has seen almost daily protests in Shi'ite villages but has resisted calls to
open new talks on political reforms.

The
Sunni al-Khalifa family dominates government, and an elected chamber of
parliament has limited legislative powers.

The
inquiry recommended that a national commission should be set up to examine
political, economic and social grievances.

Rights
activists have said senior figures should be sacked over the abuses listed in
the inquiry's report, which appeared to have been more hard-hitting than some
in government expected.

It
said torture was used to extract confessions that were used to convict hundreds
of people in military courts, mainly Shi'ites. It described the abuse as
"systematic", and said some 3,000 people were detained and 2,000
sacked from state jobs.

Opposition
parties have called for the cabinet to resign over the report and appoint a
"national salvation" government.

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King
Hamad also named the head of the appointed chamber of parliament, Ali bin Saleh
al-Saleh, to lead a national commission that will examine the inquiry's
recommendations.

The
commission includes 18 other names including the justice minister, also a
member of the royal family, and mainly pro-government politicians, clerics and
businessmen.

Two
members of the opposition party Wefaq, Bahrain's biggest political group, were
asked to take part in the commission but declined because opposition parties
were not approached directly or given the chance to choose who represents them.
A government statement said it was "disappointed" at this.

The
inquiry report said the commission implementing its recommendations should be
independent and impartial and include figures from the government, opposition
parties and civil society.

Matar
Matar, a Wefaq member, said the justice minister and others named to the
commission had defended the government's policies during the crackdown and did
not fit the inquiry's recommended criteria.

"There
are many in the ruling family who didn't defend the violations or deny they
occurred, and they kept a low profile at the time," he said. "We are
ready to work with such people who were not denying, ignoring or executing the
violations."

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