Manama: Bahrain has issued a new code of conduct that requires its police force to adhere fully to principles of human rights and freedom for all citizens.
The code, obliging officers to abide by ten principles including limited use of force and a policy of zero tolerance on torture and mistreatment, was one of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), the international fact-finding team that investigated the events that hit Bahrain in 2011 and issued a searing report in November.
"This code of conduct represents a new social treaty between members of Bahraini society and the police," said Shaikh Rashid Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, the interior minister. "It will mark the start of a new era and a correct path to building bridges of confidence between the united Bahraini society and the police, based on the rule of law, integrity, transparency, tolerance, and the breaking of psychological barriers between them," he said.
The interior ministry code, considered the officers' "guide and compass" while at work, requires them to show "respect for human dignity" and to make arrests in accordance with international human rights standards. It forbids the use of force "except when absolutely necessary".
The code is based on principles stipulated in other international police codes, including those approved by the United Nations, and drawn up by the governments of Australia, Northern Ireland and other Arab nations.
Other moves by the interior ministry include establishing an internal affairs department responsible for disciplinary reviews as well as overseeing the new police code of conduct.
However, the newly created position for an independent Ombudsman for policing will be entirely independent from the ministry and will have the responsibility of conducting investigations into allegations made against the police and other issues that relate to public confidence in policing.
"The ministry is completely aware that its objective is to achieve security for the State and its citizens within the framework of the law," Shaikh Rashid said. "This mission reflects a tradition that stems from society and is in the interests of society. Enforcing the law must be based on the values of justice, equity, integrity and commitment to the standards of human rights."
The new moves by as the government are seen as a step forward in satisfying the BICI recommendations, officials said.
The government has already initiated prosecutions of around 50 officers accused of mistreatment of protestors during last year's unrest in Bahrain and has initiated a new training programme for all officers and members of the security forces.
International police experts John Timoney and John Yates have been recruited to advise on best practice on policing in Bahrain.