Bahrain used "excessive force" in crackdown: inquiry

Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:07pm EST
 
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By Andrew Hammond

MANAMA (Reuters) - Bahrain's security forces used excessive force to suppress pro-democracy protests earlier this year, torturing detainees to get confessions, an inquiry panel charged with investigating abuses said on Wednesday.

The government commissioned report, designed to help heal sectarian divisions between the island kingdom's Sunni rulers and majority Shi'ites, acknowledged five people had been tortured to death but said abuses were isolated incidents.

However the inquiry panel, led by Egyptian-American international law expert Cherif Bassiouni, dismissed Bahrain's allegation of Iranian interference in fomenting unrest, saying that was not supported by any evidence.

"In many cases security agencies in the government of Bahrain resorted to excessive and unnecessary force," Bassiouni said at the king's palace, adding that some detainees suffered electric shocks, and beatings with rubber hoses and wires.

Bahrain's Shi'ite-led opposition reacted cooly to the report, some saying it did not go far enough while others complained that those responsible for the abuses remained in office.

Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the Shi'ite Wefaq bloc which quit parliament over the unrest, said: "We cannot say Bahrain is turning a new leaf yet...because the government that carried out all those abuses is definitely not fit to be given the responsibility of implementing recommendations."

The United States urged its ally Bahrain, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, to quickly address abuses laid out in the report.

Washington, which has been faulted by rights activists for not criticizing Bahrain more sharply for the crackdown, appeared to carefully balance its demand for the abuses to be addressed with praise for its Gulf ally.   Continued...