Nearly four months after declaring a state of emergency, King Hamad bin al-Khalifa of Bahrain announced he was forming an independent committee to investigate events surrounding recent protests, which may have been inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions but reflected unique, local conditions.
Bahraini human rights activists assert that mass arrests and brute force were used against protestors in the spring — actions President Obama deemed “at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens.”
Recently, however, King Hamad called for dialogue and reconciliation, and Bahraini government officials say they are open to reform. A national dialogue involving almost 300 participants from all sectors of Bahraini society has begun. In addition, the King has announced formation of an independent, international commission of investigation to examine claims of human rights abuses during the recent civil unrest.
In a statement issued by the White House on July 2, President Obama welcomed the launch of the National Dialogue and the formation of the commission of inquiry, commending King Hamad for his leadership and the decision of Al Wifaq, Bahrain’s largest opposition group, to participate in the National Dialogue.
This news is welcomed by the United States government and is “a step in the right direction,” said U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner in a June 29th press briefing.
In light of the investigations Toner remarked, “I think any kind of accountability process needs to be transparent; it needs to have ... this kind of broad authority to be able to look into all matters, talk to all people involved, and to get answers that will have credibility.”
The United States calls on all participants to engage constructively in an effort to produce reforms that will respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Bahraini people.
“The efforts of the investigation,” said spokesperson Toner, “will help restore confidence and trust as Bahrain moves towards the beginning of a national dialogue.”