Bahrain rights body shuts doors after protest crowd

Tue Aug 16, 2011 8:51am GMT
 

DUBAI (Reuters) - A state-appointed commission probing rights abuses in Bahrain said Tuesday it had closed its office to visitors bringing in complaints after protesters mobbed it over misleading reports that the panel had cleared government officials of wrongdoing.

Bahrain's king invited the panel, headed by international law professor Cherif Bassiouni, to examine charges of widespread torture and abuse by security forces during two months of martial law after pro-democracy unrest was suppressed.

Recent comments by Bassiouni praising the cooperation of the interior minister and saying he could see no policy of excessive use of force or torture infuriated majority Shi'ite Muslims, who dominated the protests and bore the brunt of the crackdown.

"Hundreds of people forced their way into our office, having been angered over what they believed to be the Commission Chair's 'conclusions' in the investigation," the panel said.

"After attempting to accommodate the crowd by offering to take down their information in order to schedule appointments, some in the crowd became restless and verbally and physically threatened the staff," it said in a statement.

"Individuals yelled insults, posted threatening messages on the office walls, sent threats via text and email, and even physically shoved and spat at a member of staff."

The panel said it would continue to accept statements submitted by email but would stop granting media interviews to avoid being used as a "political tool" by any group.

The official Bahrain News Agency had reported Monday that the commission believed no "crimes against humanity" had been committed after Bassiouni was quoted in a newspaper interview saying torture claims would require proof.

Activists then urged hundreds of Bahrainis fighting to get their jobs back after they were sacked during martial law to gather at the commission headquarters.   Continued...

Bahraini Shi'ites wave Bahraini flags and shout anti-government slogans during an anti-government rally held by the main opposition al-Wefaq party in Jidhafs, west of Manama, August 12, 2011. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
 
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