Bahrain says police torture not government policy

Wed Jun 6, 2012 6:35am EDT
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DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahrain's interior minister said police had been given no orders to torture or kill protesters - practices that were highlighted in a government-commissioned independent report last year.

Bahrain's human rights record has come under scrutiny since the authorities tried to crush Shi'ite-led demonstrations demanding democratic reform in the Sunni-ruled Gulf state that broke out in February 2011, inspired by Arab revolts elsewhere.

"First of all, torture and killing is not part of the government's policy," the interior minister, Sheikh Rashed bin Abdullah al-Khalifa, said in comments published in the English-language Gulf Daily News on Wednesday.

"We have never issued any orders or instructions regarding this and we have also never received such orders... Any officer accused of such charges is being tried in court."

A commission of international legal experts reported in November that torture had been systematically used to punish and extract confessions from hundreds of protesters during a period of martial law after a crackdown on anti-government protests.

It also said that 35 people, mainly protesters, died during the unrest and that five of them died as a result of torture.

Although Bahraini security forces, backed by Saudi troops, broke up a mass protest camp in Manama in March, 2011, police and protesters still clash almost daily. Each side blames the other for the violence.

Egypt's toppled president, Hosni Mubarak, and his last interior minister, Habib al-Adli, were sentenced to life in prison last week over the deaths of protesters during the Egyptian uprising last year, though the judge said he had no evidence they had given direct orders to shoot protesters.

Bahrain has put several lower-ranking police officers on trial for abuse and lethal torture, but international rights groups and opposition activists say the government is avoiding accountability at higher levels.   Continued...

Bahrain Interior Minister Sheikh Rashed bin Abdullah al-Khalifa drinks Arabian coffee before a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) interior ministers meeting in Riyadh May 2, 2012. REUTER/Fahad Shadeed