A royal fact finding committee formed to investigate the Bahrain protests reached the conclusion that no crimes against humanity were committed by the government against the protestors.
Crimes against humanity require two factors in order to be proven: they have to be systematic and political. None of those applied to the events that took place in Bahrain, said committee head Dr. Mahmoud Sherif Basyouni.
“There was no proof whatsoever of crimes against humanity and had there been any, I would have definitely written that in my report,” he told the Bahraini newspaper Al Ayam.
Regarding the committee’s involvement in the release of several of the prisoners, Dr. Basyouni stated that the committee would never ask for acquitting people who committed illegal actions.
“The committee responsibility is to make sure the law is being applied.”
Dr. Basyouni explained that the committee’s responsibility is investigating the events and notifying the relevant bodies in case violations are proven so that they can be addressed.
“This means it is not part of our job to call for releasing prisoners since we are not a human rights organization.”
The committee, however, can play the role of mediator in some cases. For example, Dr. Basyouni explained, if some people were fired from their jobs and the committee becomes aware that there is a decree that says they should be back, it tells the relevant bodies to redress this wrong.
“The same is applied to prisoners who are still detained after their time is over. In this case, we notify the prosecutor general or the ministry of interior.”
Regarding torture, Dr. Basyouni said that it is prohibited in Bahrain as stipulated by both national laws and international treaties to which Bahrain is a signatory.
“If the committee finds out about cases of torture, we have to take a firm stance even if we discover that it was a personal action because any kind of torture is a crime.”
When torture is political, he added, it is not only the person involved in the torture act that is held accountable, it is also the political responsibility of the leader of this person.
“The leader is held accountable if he knew about the torture, if he did not take the necessary actions to guarantee it will not be repeated again, and if he did not take the necessary action to penalize the person who did.”
With crimes against humanity, Dr. Basyouni explained, the situation is a bit different because the crime is in this case committed on a systematic and regular basis and towards a particular political goal.
He also stressed that nobody is above the law regardless of their status or profession. He cited the example of doctors who are not allowed to engage in political activities inside the hospitals where they work and that therefore they should be penalized in case of doing so.
Regarding the right to freedom of expression and protesting, Dr. Basyouni pointed out that protests which inflict damage upon public welfare are against the law.
“It is unacceptable that protestors destroy cars or houses and violate the rights of others. In this case, protests become illegal.”
When asked about the complaints that cite torture cases and the level of their credibility, Dr. Basyouni said that investigators and police officers have the expertise that allows them to distinguish between genuine and fabricated complaints.
“Plus, anybody who submits a complaint should have proof so if somebody says he was tortured and there are no signs of torture on his body or no witnesses to the torture, the complaint will not be accepted.”
Dr. Basyouni added that the credibility of complaints is raised when several complaints from different places have the same content.
“This is much different from receiving one single compliment from one single person.”
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)