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Report on Bahrain unrest delayed to November 23

International panel postpones probe into incidents that rocked Bahrain in February and March

Gulf News

Manama: An international panel investigating the incidents that marred Bahrain in February and March and their consequences has postponed the release of its much-awaited report to November 23.

The Bahrain Independent commission of Inquiry (BICI) on Thursday attributed the postponement to "the substantial number of testimonies presented by Bahraini citizens and foreign nationals and the large amount of information presented to the BICI from political activists, civil society organizations, and governmental agencies."

According to the BICI, Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni, Chairman of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) this week briefed King Hamad Bin Eisa Al on the developments relating to the work of the Commission, which included investigations into thousands of complaints filed by Bahraini citizens and foreign nationals.

"The Commission Chairperson informed His Majesty that approximately 9,000 written complaints were received by the BICI from both citizens and foreign residents who claimed to be victims of human rights violations," the BICI said. "Moreover, the BICI conducted over 5,000 personal interviews with individual complainants at the Commission's offices during which allegations of human rights violations against those individuals and their families were investigated."

The BICI said that it deeply appreciated the large amount of information, testimony, and complaints received from political societies, human rights activists, and civil society institutions.

"This information has assisted the BICI in identifying the nature of the human rights violations that occurred during the events of February and March 2011 and related subsequent events. To this day, the BICI continues to receive information from these non-governmental sources to which the Commission attaches great importance as it sheds light on the events under investigation and their consequences."

The panel said that it was still awaiting responses from various ministries and government agencies to its enquiries regarding their role during the events.

"This is in line with the Commission's examination of the policies and practices of these agencies during the events under investigation, which aims to establish whether these governmental institutions and their agents upheld the rule of law and respected international human rights law," it said.

The commission said that it required more time to complete its investigative activities.

"This is to ensure that every testimony, complaint, and item of evidence is considered and examined, which will enable the Commission to prepare a final report that establishes the facts about what occurred in Bahrain during February and March 2011. Therefore, the BICI requested that His Majesty King Hamad consider extending the mandate of the Commission for a brief period to enable it to complete its final report. His Majesty the King of Bahrain graciously approved an extension of the Commission's mandate, which is now due to submit its final report on 23 November 2011."

According to Bessiouni, all physical documents - statements and complaints submitted by Bahraini citizens and foreign residents - would be destroyed at the time of the submission of the final report to protect the confidentiality, security and privacy of all complainants and their testimonies.

"An electronic copy of all these documents shall be preserved at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague for a period of ten years, after which these records will be destroyed by the PCA. No copies or physical evidence of the record of the BICI files will be maintained thereafter," the BICI said.

"Until the submission of its final report, the BICI will maintain its policy of abstaining from media interviews. The purpose of this policy is to ensure that nothing about the substantive work of the Commission, in particular its findings and recommendations, be made public before the submission of the final report."

The commission said that it decided not to respond to media allegations against either the Commission or its staff "as the BICI continues to execute its mandate to a high degree of professionalism."

"The final report will be based on extensive research and investigations that will establish - in an impartial manner - the facts related to the events that occurred during February and March 2011 and related subsequent events," it said.

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