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UN rights office concerned over Bahrain violence

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] Tuesday expressed concern over reports of excessive force [press release] used by Bahraini security forces against citizen protesters. The alleged disproportionate use of force [UPI report] has involved birdshot pellets, rubber bullets and tear gas canisters being shot into crowds, resulting in a number of reported citizen deaths, particularly due to complications from tear gas inhalation. The government crackdown on the ongoing uprising against Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official profile] prompted the monarch last year to order [materials; JURIST report] an independent fact-finding commission [Al Jazeera report] to investigate alleged violations of international human rights law and norms [OHCHR backgrounder], and to make appropriate recommendations based on its findings. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) [official website] submitted its 500-page report [report, PDF; JURIST report] in November, documenting 46 deaths and 559 allegations of torture. Another commission was established to study the recommendations [JURIST report] of the BICI, the implementation of which is 90 percent complete, according to the Bahraini government. Opposition leaders and former government officials, however, have maintained that the achievements amount to a figure closer to 10 percent. In its statement the OHCHR called on the Bahraini government to further investigate the most recent accounts of violence against its citizens.

Protests and demonstrations in Bahrain [BBC backgrounder] have been ongoing since February 2011 [JURIST report]. In November, in anticipation of the BICI report, the Bahraini government admitted the use of excessive force [JURIST report] against protesters. Following the the submission of BICI report, Al Khalifa swore that reforms would be made. In January Al Khalifa promised to amend the nation's constitution to allow the National Assembly [official profile] more oversight of ministers and cabinet members. Last month a Bahraini court overturned the death sentences for two protesters convicted of killing two police officers during the demonstrations that took place in the country last year. The original conviction was rendered by a special security court set up as part of last year's three-month state of emergency [JURIST report], implemented while the country's Sunni rulers attempted to silence a Shiite-led to effort bolster civil and political rights in the country.

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