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It has now been two years since the publication of a landmark report examining events during antigovernment protests in Bahrain in February and March 2011, including the violent response of the security forces that left scores dead. The 593 pages of the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry contain numerous references to torture in detention, “excessive and unnecessary lethal force,” and “terror-inspiring behavior” on the part of the security forces.
Why, one might ask, would the government of Bahrain expose itself to such unrelenting and embarrassing criticism from a committee comprised of eminent international jurists? To his credit, on the day of the report’s publication, King Hamad explained: “Any government which has a sincere desire for reform and progress understands the benefit of objective and constructive criticism.”
But two years later, the government of Bahrain has not implemented the report’s key recommendations. It has not determined “the accountability of those in government who… committed unlawful or negligent acts resulting in the deaths, torture, and mistreatment of civilians.” And not only has the government failed to “commute [the] sentences of all persons charged with offences involving political expression,” as the report recommends, but it has persisted with a policy of arresting and prosecuting opposition leaders and others who exercise that right.
If the report is to be anything more than a historical record of blood-spattered facts – if it is to have the redemptive and transformative impact that was ostensibly its purpose – then the government of Bahrain needs to implement its recommendations. And other countries that claim at every passing opportunity to support the reform process in Bahrain should use this anniversary to call publicly on the Bahraini authorities to implement the reforms – or face accusations that what they really support is the status quo.