Report finds Bahrain systematically tortured political detainees

McClatchy reports: An international human rights panel concluded Wednesday that the Sunni Muslim government of the small gulf island of Bahrain carried out “deliberate” and “systematic” torture against many of the 2,929 people it arrested last spring during protests demanding more democracy.

The panel, headed by Egyptian-born U.S. lawyer Cherif Bassiouni, also said the Bahraini government systematically used excessive force in arrests, deprived defendants of due process in special military courts, and allowed an atmosphere of impunity to take hold, where no one was accountable for upholding Bahrain’s own laws.

Bassiouni also dismissed the Bahrain government’s allegations that Iran, whose population, like Bahrain’s, is majority Shiite Muslim, interfered in the uprising. The evidence presented to the commission “does not establish a discernible link” between specific incidents in Bahrain and the Iranian government, he wrote.

At least 35 people died in the two months after the protests began Feb. 14, including three police officers allegedly killed by demonstrators; 4,439 people were fired from their jobs and charged with joining the protests; and 534 students were expelled from university for the same reason, the report said. In addition, the government destroyed or severely damaged more than 40 places of worship, almost all Shiite.

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, who established the commission in June, welcomed the report for identifying the “serious shortcomings” in his government’s response to the demonstrations. He promised legal reforms to ensure free speech and prohibit torture and said that officials who violated the law would be held accountable and replaced.

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