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Middle East
Clashes erupt ahead of Bahrain rights report
Police use teargas and sound bombs hours before official report on alleged human rights abuses during months of unrest.
Last Modified: 23 Nov 2011 10:25

Police in Bahrain have clashed with protesters, firing teargas and raiding a makeshift clinic, just hours before a report is due to be published on the government's crackdown on protests which began in February.

Clashes are taking place in A'Ali, about 30km south of the capital Manama, after officers allegedly ran a driver off the road.

Al Jazeera's Gregg Carlstrom, reporting from A’Ali, said police had used tear gas and sound bombs against the protesters.

"Protests initially began after police allegedly forced a man off the road, causing him to crash into a house and die." Carlstrom said.

He said police also raided a makeshift clinic and arrested a number of people.

Bahrain's government has already admitted using excessive force against protesters ahead Wednesday's report, in what some analysts says is an attempt to control its possible fallout.

Opposition leaders have called for protests to coincide with the report’s release.

Many have said the report will not lead to political reconciliation unless it faults senior officials, and the government follows it with a major concession, such as a general amnesty.

'Systematic policy'

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa established a five-member commission in June to investigate "whether the events of February and March 2011 [and thereafter] involved violations of international human rights law and norms".

At least 35 people have been killed in this year's violence, with hundreds more wounded and detained.

The commission's final report was originally scheduled for release in late October.

The government is hoping to capitalise on the report to improve its image.

Journalists have recently been welcomed back into the country after months of restrictions, and the government announced on Monday that all forms of torture would be illegal, with more stringent penalties for those who commit them.

Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, praised the government’s move to ban torture, but argued that the report would limit itself to a handful of low-level targets.

Critics say many Bahrainis do not trust the official report because of statements made by Cherif Bassiouni, the Egyptian judge who chairs the commission.

Bassiouni said in August that there was no evidence of routine torture in Bahrain. He backtracked on these comments earlier this month, telling the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm that it was, in fact, a "systematic policy".

"They don't trust the report. This is a commission appointed by the king," said Yousif al-Muhafdah, a human rights activist. "The people in Bahrain are disappointed with Bassiouni and his commission."

The report, expected to be released 12GMT, will be closely watched by international human rights organisations, several of which are sending analysts to Bahrain this week.

King Hamad is expected to address the nation after the report is launched.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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