PHR welcomes the announcement of the creation of an independent body to investigate human rights violations in the Kingdom of Bahrain during February and March of this year. The establishment of this investigation commission, announced Wednesday, June 29, by Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, is a response to calls from PHR and other groups to investigate attacks on protesters and health professionals following popular protests earlier this year.
PHR called for the establishment of a truly independent investigation after conducting a fact-finding mission in Bahrain and uncovering the Government of Bahrain’s systematic attacks against health professionals and health facilities. Such an investigation into these crimes would demonstrate a willingness on the part of the Government of Bahrain to reckon with its actions and uncover the truth about what happened during the events in February and March.
While the proposed commission is charged with investigating violations of international human rights law including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, and police brutality, missing from the commission’s mandate is the authority to investigate human rights violations connected to the ongoing trials of those arrested in the wake of the protests. Dozens of medical professionals were arrested during the weeks of unrest and 48 are currently facing trial in military courts. PHR has received calls from family members of those facing trial that indicate that some of these individuals have been tortured in detention and have been forced to sign false confessions. On June 22, the Government of Bahrain sentenced 21 pro-democracy activists to long prison terms for their advocacy for reform. Eight of these activists received life sentences.
PHR welcomes this initiative by the Government of Bahrain, but urges the Government to ensure the true independence of the commission and the full and unrestricted access to all individuals and information relevant to the events of February and March of this year. Beyond this focus, the commission also needs to investigate the treatment of those in detention after these dates and to ensure that all court proceedings adhere to international legal standards.