Bahrain has won praise for fully implementing the reforms recommended by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in a report in 2011. The commission was constituted by the King after the troubles which gripped Bahrain in February 2011, sparked in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring. The Arab Spring engulfed Tunisia, Libya and Egypt and singed a number of other Arab countries. In Bahrain the spark was turned into a conflagration by certain elements guided and funded by Iran.
The formation of the commission was a landmark act on the King’s part. It was the first time in history that a nation had decided to hold an inquiry into riots and mayhem which had engulfed it. The nation voluntarily invited five leading international lawyers and human rights experts, giving them full and unconditional cooperation and a free hand to speak to the opposition as well. Funds were set aside for it, and the report released, warts and all with criticism of the government as well as the opposition without deleting anything, on a website accessible to all.
The five experts – Prof. Cherif Bassiouni, Philippe Kirsch, Sir Nigel Simon Rodley, Dr Mahnoush Arsanjani and Dr Badria Al Awadhi – are among the eminent international authorities on human rights and humanitarian law, recognised for their competence and independence.
Their report made a number of recommendations to heal the wounds, to compensate people and families for the loss of lives and property, and to punish those responsible for unacceptable acts whether in police, army, or society. The recommendations were implemented by the government in full without demur and last week the head of the BICI flew down to Bahrain to mark completion of the process.
Bahrain Inquiry Panel Head Returns
The commission head, Prof. Bassiouni, was in Bahrain last week to mark the occasion of full implementation of his report and noted on the occasion that the government was fully committed to the commission’s advice to re-admit expelled students to their colleges and reinstate sacked government employees. For the purpose, suitable amendments had to be made in the code of criminal procedure and the penal code. He also said those injured and other victims had been compensated while they retained their right to go to civil courts if dissatisfied. Additional steps included setting up a Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission to protect inmates against violations.
Most importantly, Prof. Bassiouni was satisfied that as per his recommendations, a special investigation had been set up within the Public Prosecution, an office of the public prosecutor had been set up within the National Security Agency, and finally an Ombudsman’s office had been set up – possibly the first in a Middle East country.
In other words, the government of Bahrain has dealt with the troubling incidents through an integrated system of reforms and some efficient actions.
All this is a first anywhere in the world. Nations generally do not admit the mistakes made by its minions when faced with troubling social and political situations. And even if they do, it’s done under protracted media and international pressures and the steps taken are half-hearted and implementation half-baked. Bahrain is one country that went forward wholeheartedly to heal the wounds and efface the scars.