Guidelines for the Fact-Finding Committee

In February 2011, Bahrain witnessed large demonstrations that were met with excessive force by the security forces against protesters and resulted in several deaths. The events shocked Bahrainis, human rights organizations and civil society institutions, which condemned the disproportionate reaction of the security forces and demanded an immediate investigation and to hold those responsible to account.

The following are some suggestions of how to deal with the situation from a human rights perspective. These points, though not comprehensive, provide general guidelines and can assist the Bahraini authorities in conducting a comprehensive investigation:

■ There is need to establish an independent committee in order to investigate the February incidents. The committee members should be independent and free from any political or sectarian affiliations. Such members should include human rights activists, civil society organizations, medical doctors and healthcare workers, experts in international human rights law and international criminal law, security and military personnel. Participation of non-Bahraini expertise to provide technical advice should also be welcomed.

■ The committee should have clear and practical mandate, as well as a specific timeline for presenting its final report and recommendations. The Government of Bahrain is strongly advised to take into consideration the recommendations of this committee.

■ Concerned parties such as human rights organizations and civil society institutions should participate in defining the mandate of this committee.

■ The committee should be given real powers, so that it can perform its duties without any restrictions including contacting the families of the victims and witnesses.

■ The committee should have easy access to information from Governmental bodies including files and medical reports of those killed and injured. The committee should also have access to files relating to the law enforcement bodies, especially the orders that were given to them. These bodies should provide access to this information without any delay or bureaucracy.

■ Device a protection plan for victims and potential witnesses in order to ensure their protection from any acts of threat and retaliation especially those employed by the Government e.g. doctors, health care workers and law enforcement officials.

■ The committee should be mandated to interrogate policemen and law enforcement officials who were involved in the shooting, or in inflaming the situation regardless of their position. The committee should also have the right to ask the Bahraini authorities to suspend those under investigation from work until the investigation is completed.

■ The committee should have the power to determine the proportionality of the force used by the police, security force and law enforcement. It should also monitor Bahraini security forces’ adherence to international human rights law and the UN’s basic principles regarding the use of force and firearms. The law states that “law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury. They should also exercise restraint in proportion with the event.”

■ The committee should decide whether Bahrain’s legal framework complies with international standards, which demand that Governments must ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is punishable as a criminal offence under their law.

■ The committee should be mandated to look into allegations that doctors and health care workers were prevented from providing medical treatment to those injured and transfer them hospitals. It should also look into allegations regarding attacks on healthcare workers who were trying to assist those injured.

■ The committee’s report and recommendations should be made public so that those responsible be brought to justice in accordance with international standards and the Bahraini law. The report should also be published in local, regional and international media.