A picture of Bahraini King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa decorates a tank as armed forces secure Manama's Pearl Square
A picture of Bahraini King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa decorates a tank as armed forces secure Manama's Pearl Square, MArch 2011. Bahrain has decided to open up its prisons to the International Committee of the Red Cross following a damning report on human rights abuse in the country. © Joseph Eid - AFP/File
A picture of Bahraini King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa decorates a tank as armed forces secure Manama's Pearl Square
AFP
Last updated: December 9, 2011

Bahrain to open up prisons to Red Cross

Bahrain has decided to open up its prisons to the International Committee of the Red Cross following a damning report on human rights abuse in the country, an official statement said on Friday.

Delegates from the ICRC are "to visit inmates at its reformation and rehabilitation centres, as well as detention centres," Bahrain's Information Authority said in a statement.

Permission was granted to the Red Cross to enter Bahraini prisons in line with a memorandum of understanding which was signed on Thursday with the ICRC, it said quoting the interior ministry.

"The Red Cross will also hold training courses on human rights and international humanitarian law for (ministry of interior) personnel to enhance their skills and reinforce and promote a culture of human rights," the statement added.

Bahrain's Interior Minister Rashed bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa also ordered a series of measures to reform his ministry in line with recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry.

The panel last month published a report that found police used "excessive force" and tortured detainees in a crackdown on the Shiite-led democracy protests in March, and made a series of recommendations.

In compliance with those recommendations the Bahraini interior minister "issued an order to refer all cases related to deaths, torture and inhumane treatment implicating police to the public prosecution," said the statement.

It added that cameras were being installed "to ensure visual and audio recording for all official interviews of detainees, including the necessary legislation being prepared."

The mass demonstrations which rocked the Sunni-ruled kingdom of Bahrain earlier this year were violently crushed by government forces using live ammunition and heavy-handed tactics.

The report published on November 23 said the death toll from the unrest reached 35, including five security personnel and five detainees who were tortured to death while in custody. Hundreds were also injured.

The findings, which studied events in February and March, said that 11 other people were killed later. The commission concluded that a total of 2,929 people were detained during the protest movement, and at least 700 remain in prison.

Bahrain's King Hamad vowed sweeping reforms and set up a National Commission to follow up on the recommendations made by the panel.

The National Commission held its first meeting on Thursday and adopted a "clear mechanism... in order to expedite the process" of reform, a separate statement said.

"The leading priorities for the commission are those recommendations related to dismissed employees, students and houses of worship," it added.

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