BICI Commissioner view on implementation 2 years after

The following is a statement from Sir Nigel Rodley, originally given to Gulf Daily News and Al Wasat, on the occasion of the second anniversary of the publication of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). Sir Nigel Rodley was a lead Commissioner of the BICI and the following is his assessment of the implementation of the BICI.

“Looking back two years after the BICI presented its report to His Majesty, I cannot hide my disappointment at the current situation.  The dignified response of His Majesty to the report, accepting its recommendations on behalf of the Kingdom of Bahrain, led many to believe that there would be redress for victims of the serious human rights violations that had occurred, that there would be a halt to the violations that were still occurring and that these events could be a basis for reconciliation between Bahrain’s two main communities. I believed these things myself.

There have indeed been some positive developments, such as the restoration of employment to many of the thousands who had been arbitrarily dismissed from their jobs. However, while I no longer have access to the important sources of information that I had as a BICI member, especially those that the GOB fulsomely provided, it isdifficult not to conclude that serious human rights violations continue, aided and abetted by general, if not total, impunity for their perpetrators. For example, there are persistent reports of torture and disproportionate or inappropriate use of injurious crowd control measures, notably the use of birdshot and gas canisters.

The repeated dangling of an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur to visit the country Bahrain, followed by its peremptory withdrawal, can have only one plausible interpretation: that he will find extensive manifestations of the grave, criminal human rights violations that are within his mandate. I know my current successor as Special Rapporteur, Juan Mendez, well. He is a person of total honesty, integrity and professionalism.  The insulting and disrespectful way he has been treated does little credit to the GOB.

Meanwhile, the maximum punishment that has been meted out to the few perpetrators of torture who have been prosecuted and convicted is seven years – even when the torture has been fatal.  This compares abjectly with the sentences as high as fifteen years given to protestors who have neither used nor advocated violence.

The provocative detention of opposition leaders and human rights advocates, combined with the violations I have mentioned, must seem to Bahrainis like a comprehensive rejection in practice of the main concerns and recommendations of BICI.

Of course, I am aware of the ongoing violent protests that any self-respecting government would feel obliged to try to stop, even while a conciliation process may be under way.  Yet, a successful conciliation process would be more likely to result in the long-term end to violent opposition.  I have no reason to change the view I had two years ago, namely, that an improvement in the human rights situation following the main substantive recommendations of BICI would facilitate a more successful reconciliation process, if only by replacing a sense of injustice by a sense of justice. “

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