Recommendation 1716

To establish a national independent and impartial mechanism to determine the accountability of those in government who have committed unlawful or negligent acts resulting in the deaths, torture and mistreatment of civilians with a view to bringing legal and disciplinary action against such individuals, including those in the chain of command, military and civilian, who are found to be responsible under international standards of "superior responsibility".

Status

The Attorney General issued a decision on 27 February 2012 establishing a "Special Investigations Unit" in the Public Prosecution. The Unit will be headed by a prosecutor, and under the control of the Attorney General. Monthly public reports will be issued on the Unit's progress. The Unit is tasked with determining criminal responsibility against members of the government in relation to the cases mentioned in the BICI report, or any other case, at the Attorney General's discretion. Where appropriate, the Unit will refer cases to another department or government body for possible disciplinary or other action. The Unit will have access to an "independent" adviser appointed by the Supreme Judicial Council, which is chaired by the King. The lack of a requirement to use independent forensic experts or other independent experts constitutes a violation of the spirit of the recommendation.

There are serious concerns about the impartiality of the Public Prosecution, given its role in the 2010 politically-motivated prosecution of opposition leaders in which it barred the defendants from meeting with their lawyers and leaked prejudicial information about investigations to the media. The Public Prosecution has also used evidence obtained under torture in several cases, and has itself been accused of threatening and torturing detainees in politically-motivated cases.

Furthermore, in a recent case of alleged government abuse, the Public Prosecution produced an investigation two days after the abuse accusing the victim of faking his injuries. The victim was found unconscious lying in a garage with no underwear and his pants pulled down, cuts all over his arms and legs, and his hands tied behind his back. On two previous occasions, the victim alleged that cuts all over his back and chest were caused by government forces who abducted him and pressured him to work as an informant. Irish activist Elaine Masons observed and treated these wounds on one occasion. Recommendation 1722b has more details about the alleged abuse, including pictures and videos.

Meanwile, investigations continue under the current framework. As of 16 January, the Public Prosecution had "questioned" at least 48 police officers in connection with 107 cases, though it is not clear if these officers are being prosecuted or are even implicated. The government still cites the same numbers as of 3 March. These investigations violate the spirit of the recommendation, as the Public Prosecution is not an independent and impartial entity.

Five police are currently being prosecuted for accidentally killing five civilians. Two police -- still on duty -- who allegedly beat two detainees to death could face 3-7 years in prison if convicted, after being earlier acquitted by a military court. In the other cases, one of the other three victims was executed at point-blank range, and two were shot at least three times in multiple limbs at close range. An additional three policemen are charged with failing to report a crime in the beating case. In general, the charges and possible punishments seem incommensurate with the crimes, which violates the spirit of the recommendation.

Additionally, the prosecutions are of low-ranking officers, all but one of whom are mentioned in the BICI report (paragraphs 875, 876, 924, 949) as having been identified based on Ministry of Interior investigations. BICI concluded that, in general, the conclusions of Ministry of Interior investigations were "flawed, and biased in its favour" (paragraph 868).

Recently, a policewoman was charged with assaulting France 24 journalist Naziha Saeed, who was tortured by multiple assailants in a police station in May 2011. The officer in question was previously fined 200BD by a military court.

Government Claim

(source: www.govactions.bh on 3/3/2012)

The team comprising Sir Daniel Bethlehem QC, Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC, Professor Adnan Amkhan, Professor Sarah Cleveland and David Perry QC (External Legal Experts) provided their advice on implementing this recommendation through the establishment of a special unit within public prosecution that is dedicated to the task of determining accountability (Special Investigations Unit). The features of this Unit would be as follows:

  • It would be led by a senior public prosecutor.
  • It will be supplemented by experienced and independent criminal investigators and forensic experts.
  • The Unit will have available to it a newly created senior independent investigations counsellor (appointed by the Supreme Judicial Council), experienced in prosecuting and investigating crimes; this person will also be familiar with international standards on human rights investigations.
  • Guidance will also be provided to this Unit on how to apply the principle on Superior Responsibility, which is already part of Bahraini law

The recommendations have been accepted and on 28 February 2012 the Attorney General issued his decision (drafted with the External Legal Experts) for the Special Investigations Unit.

In parallel, the public prosecutor continues to investigate any unlawful acts resulting in deaths, torture and mistreatment with a view to commencing legal and disciplinary actions. There is an important update in this regard, since the publication of the BICI Report. At the time of writing, the public prosecutor is pursuing 107 cases of deaths, torture and mistreatment of civilians, so far involving 48 officers (as the investigations progress more officers may become implicated). This is an increase on the number of prosecutions at the time of the BICI Report (20).

Recommendation 1716
Establish a national independent and impartial mechanism to punish those responsible for deaths, torture, and mistreatment
Status: Violated
Government claim: Implemented

Summary:

  • Violation "Special Investigations Unit" is not independent
  • Violation Investigations continuing within the existing biased framework
  • Violation Only a small number of low-ranking police are being prosecuted, and the alleged crimes are far more serious than the charges