Bahrain’s Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) released its long-awaited report this week detailing events during the country’s protests in February and March of this year. The commission clearly stated there is no evidence that Iran was linked to fomenting unrest by Shi’a protesters, despite widespread belief to the contrary.
The 500-page report provides an analysis of subsequent events, such as arrests and trials; who violated national and international law; and makes scores of recommendations to fix or improve the legal and political conditions of the country.
The protests have often been characterized as a proxy fight fueled by Iran against the Sunni-led government. However, the commission found otherwise:
The evidence presented to the Commission by the GoB on the involvement by the Islamic Republic of Iran in the internal affairs of Bahrain does not establish a discernible link between specific incidents that occurred in Bahrain during February and March 2011 and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
We spoke with Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center, who specializes in conflict resolution in the Middle East. He thinks the report should dispel claims of Iranian involvement, although government officials today are still making that argument, in spite of the commission’s investigation. Salman Shaikh on Iran’s involvement (audio)
There is really no credible evidence pointing to financing or funding of specific activities to do with the protests.
The government of Bahrain was deemed at fault for the behavior of the security forces in dealing with the protesters:
In many cases, the security services of the GoB resorted to the use of unnecessary and excessive force, terror-inspiring behaviour and unnecessary damage to property. The fact that a systematic pattern of behaviour existed indicates that this is how these security forces were trained and were expected to behave.
However, the fault was not one-sided. Shia-led protesters also share some blame for civil unrest:
The Commission finds sufficient evidence to support the finding that Sunnis were targeted by some demonstrators, either because they professed loyalty to the regime or on the basis of their sect.
Bahrain’s king said the government is “grateful” for the report’s identification of the ways in which authorities must improve. He praised the report as a “catalyst for positive change” and vowed to hold officials involved in the abuses accountable for their actions.
Among the many recommendations in the report are steps to provide independent oversight of reforms:
To establish an independent and impartial national commission consisting of personalities of high standing representing both the GoB, opposition political parties and civil society to follow up and implement the recommendations of this Commission.
Reaction from interested parties on all sides was swift. Everyone found something to reinforce their viewpoints and disagreed with other findings. Perhaps that’s an indication the report is fair.
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IMPORTANT UPDATE: For our next installment of our Middle East Voices podcast, we would like two Bahraini national guests to join our anchors – one Bahraini in support of protesters and democratic change and one in support of the current political structure and the monarchy. We would like a spirited, respectful debate. If you would like to volunteer yourself or nominate someone else for this Bahrain segment, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob has a great interest in the possibilities for enhanced and improved communications made available by the Internet. His extensive experience in all forms of traditional and multimedia formats led him to believe that a new era of dialogue between the Middle East and the rest of the world can take place using these latest tools. He is currently the chief of VOA's English for the Middle East service.