On November 23, 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) issued a 500-page report summarizing its findings regarding the February-March 2011 popular uprising and the government’s heavy-handed response, highlighting a culture of impunity prevalent among government officials at all levels. Although the BICI report was welcomed by the international community as a potentially critical step toward resolving the country’s escalating political crisis, one year later, tensions in Bahrain continue to escalate.
In a new report, the Project for Middle East Democracy provides a calibrated assessment of actions taken over the past year to address the BICI recommendations.
We have found the Government of Bahrain fully implemented three of the BICI report’s 26 recommendations. Two other recommendations were impossible for us to properly evaluate due to a lack of available information, and 15 recommendations have only been partially implemented. The government has made no meaningful progress toward six of the recommendations, which are precisely the most important steps that need to be taken – accountability for officials responsible for torture and severe human rights violations, the release of political prisoners, prevention of sectarian incitement, and the relaxation of censorship and controls on free expression.
The Government of Bahrain announced it will soon issue its own report regarding the implementation of the BICI recommendations. We welcome this announcement and hope the government will seize this opportunity to offer a frank assessment of its own progress, to adopt greater transparency, and to recommit to the swift implementation of the numerous steps yet to be taken.
If this proves not to be the case, then we urge international actors, particularly the U.S. government, to pressure Bahrain to move quickly in this direction. Meaningful reform that fully addresses the legitimate democratic aspirations of the Bahraini people remains the only path to lift the country out of its current crisis. As such, it is also the only approach that will stabilize the country and secure Bahrain as an ally of the United States in the long-term.
POMED is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.