Bahrain: Rights investigators close office to public

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The Independent Online

A state-appointed commission probing rights abuses in Bahrain said yesterday it had closed its office to the public after protesters mobbed it over misleading reports that the panel had cleared government officials of wrongdoing.

Bahrain's King invited the panel, headed by the international law Professor Cherif Bassiouni, to examine charges of widespread torture and abuse by security forces during two months of martial law after pro-democracy unrest was suppressed.

Recent comments by Mr Bassiouni praising the co-operation of the Interior Minister and saying he could see no policy of excessive use of force or torture infuriated the majority Shia Muslims, who dominated the protests and bore the brunt of the crackdown.

"Hundreds of people forced their way into our office, having been angered over what they believed to be the commission chair's 'conclusions' in the investigation," the panel said.

"After attempting to accommodate the crowd by offering to take down their information in order to schedule appointments, some in the crowd became restless and verbally and physically threatened the staff," it said in a statement.

The official Bahrain News Agency had reported on Monday that the commission believed no "crimes against humanity" had been committed.