Bahrain officials must be fired for abuse -activists

Tue Nov 22, 2011 4:10pm GMT

By Andrew Hammond

MANAMA Nov 22 (Reuters) - Bahraini rights activists welcomed on Tuesday a government vow to outlaw torture and take action against those who committed abuse during unrest this year, but said they wanted to see senior officials fired so the Gulf state can turn a page.

Bahrain's government admitted on Monday that security forces had used "excessive force" and mistreated detainees in the effort to crush a pro-democracy movement this year. It also said it had started prosecuting 20 officers, but gave no details.

The confession came ahead of the release of an independent report expected to criticise the handling of the unrest in the island state, now mired in sectarian strife between majority Shi'ite Muslims and a ruling Sunni Muslim elite.

Bahrain's response to the report could determine whether the U.S. Congress approves an arms sale.

"It's a good step. Torture has not been described in our law, but people have to be brought to justice," said Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Human Rights Association (BHRA), who added that testimony from detainees indicated four members of the royal family were personally involved in abuses.

"We don't know who these 20 people (being prosecuted) are, or if they have really been questioned or not," he said.

Observers are focused on whether the report, to be unveiled in a high-profile ceremony at one of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa's palaces, describes torture as systematic.

Bahrain has argued the cases were restricted to some officers who acted alone, and has challenged the term "systematic".   Continued...

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