An independent commission on Sunday began investigating human rights violations related to the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Bahrain [BBC backgrounder]. The chairman of the five-person Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), Cherif Bassiouni [academic profile], announced that the group's investigation would focus on 30 police officers [Reuters report] alleged to have committed violations of procedural laws, as well as the country's army. Bahraini authorities have promised that the commission will have access to government files and will be permitted to interview witnesses without supervision. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official websites] announced [press release] in June that Bahrain had agreed to permit a UN commission to investigate [JURIST report] human rights violations related to protests shortly after Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official website] agreed to the investigation [JURIST report]. Thirty-three people died during the unrest and more than 400 were injured. The commission is scheduled to publish the results of the investigation by October 30.
Bahrain, along with several other Middle Eastern and North African nations, has faced criticism from international human rights organizations for its handling of pro-reform protests in recent months. In May, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said the government of Bahrain should suspend prosecution of civilians in military courts and set up an impartial commission to investigate torture allegations [JURIST report]. Also in May, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged the government of Bahrain to release detained activists [JURIST report] and exercise restraint against protesters. She expressed concern over the prosecution of medical professionals and the death sentences [JURIST report] handed to four activists. In April, human rights organizations including HRW and Doctors Without Borders (DWB) [advocacy website] criticized Bahrain [JURIST report] for human rights abuses related to anti-government protests. In March, the OHCHR expressed concern [JURIST report] over violence against protesters in Bahrain.