12th July, 2012 –

The Follow-Up Committee for the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) has made announcements concerning implementation of several BICI recommendations. Citizens for Bahrain have summarized these below. These are just a small number of the initiatives which have been launched in recent months to strengthen the rule of law, uphold freedom of expression and address abuses. The below measures provide a flavour of this ongoing activity.

Action against those accused of abuses

The Special Investigation Unit is actively investigating 122 cases referred to it by the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and the National Security Agency (NSA). Additionally the SIU has directly received 45 complaints. Fifty complainants were referred to the forensic medical examiner for medical examination.

Charges have so far been leveled against 21 security personnel, including officers; with a further 13 cases referred to the courts, including all outstanding murder cases associated with the political unrest over the past 18 months.

Redefining torture

The Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure have been amended to ensure that the definition of torture is clear and rigorous and loopholes don’t exist to allow violators to escape justice.

The revised code criminalizes “acts of inflicting severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, on a detained person by, or under the control of, a civil servant or a serving officer, for the purpose of obtaining information, extracting confession, inflicting punishment, or terrorizing or coercing the detainee or any other person”.

Right to compensation

According to the revised Code of Criminal Procedure, anyone alleging that they suffered from a “vengeful act” because of allegations they made can file a civil action suit against the accused.

This can occur in parallel with the investigation of the original case to avoid delays or obstructions of justice. If the vengeful act is not a punishable felony, civil courts shall have jurisdiction.

Strengthening freedom of expression

Previously journalists could face punishment if it was found that they had broadcast incorrect news. The Penal Code has been changed so that those facing such accusations can only be tried if their actions have caused physical injury.

Charges of undermining national security can only be leveled in cases involving incitement of violence with a direct link to violent acts. These measures are to prevent abuses of the law with the aim of censoring or intimidating journalists.

The Penal Code now emphasizes that exercising freedom of expression is exempt from punishment. In the spirit of these measures the Public Prosecution has dropped all existing charges that overlap with freedom of opinion, involving 334 cases.

Retraining judges

Further training for judges in international standards of justice was a key BICI recommendation. Agreements have been signed with international legal institutes for providing training for Bahraini judges in human rights, criminal sciences, international law and other fields.

Sessions of these courses have already taken place in various locations encompassing visits to major European legal institutions such as the European Court for Human Rights. Further training opportunities will also be provided in Bahrain, in order that all legal officials can benefit.

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