Bahrain rights probe head says torture systematic

Human rights violations were ‘policy’ in crackdown on protestors, finds investigation
Around 40 people died and more than 1,000 were detained in the unrest
By Reuters
Wed 02 Nov 2011 07:28 AM

Bahrain
said on Tuesday it would push ahead with parliamentary reforms it hopes will
end unrest in the Gulf Arab country in an announcement that came a day after
the head of a rights commission said he had found evidence of systematic abuse.

The
justice minister said constitutional amendments based on the results of a
national dialogue launched this year to discuss reforms in the island kingdom
would be presented to parliament after the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, which
falls next week.

The
statement came a day after the head of a fact-finding mission set up to
investigate allegations of human rights violations in Bahrain during months of
unrest said he now believed torture had been a systematic, though limited,
policy.

The
commission is due to present its final report to King Hamad on Nov 23. Several
months ago Cherif Bassiouni had said he did not believe maltreatment was
systematic, comments that provoked an angry reaction from majority Shi'ites in
the Sunni-run kingdom.

"It
is not possible to justify torture in any way, and despite the small number of
cases, it is clear there was a systematic policy," Bassiouni said in an
interview with Egyptian daily Almasry Alyoum on Monday.

"I
investigated and I found 300 cases of torture and I was helped in that by legal
experts from Egypt and America".

Bahrain
crushed a pro-democracy protest movement earlier this year which was led mainly
by Shi'ites, saying the uprising was sectarian in motive and backed by Iran.

Around
40 people have died, more than 1,000 detained and thousands lost their jobs in
the unrest, which has continued despite the reforms promised by the national
dialogue.

Bahrain
invited an independent panel of high-profile international lawyers to look into
protests and crackdown.

Bahrain
has admitted there were isolated violations of human rights, but denies there
was ever a policy to use excessive force against protesters and detainees.

The
commission's final report was due in late October, but the deadline was pushed
back by a month at the last minute, two days after the US State Department said
a $53m arms sale was being put on hold until it had seen the findings.

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