|Some graffiti was aimed against Iran, who the government says has been stoking tensions in Bahrain [Reuters]|
Dozens of pro-government protesters have marched to the offices of a Bahraini opposition party, painting graffiti against the country’s majority Shia population and Iran on its walls, residents of the area say.
“Down with Iran” and “Shias get out” were among the slogans written on the offices of Waad, a secular party aligned with a large pro-democracy protest movement, during Friday’s demonstration.
“Police stopped them from entering. They dispersed after leaving pictures of King Hamad and the prime minister outside the Waad headquarters,” a resident told the Reuters news agency.
“This building had been burned down twice, and we had just repaired it. So we were afraid that may be repeated. But police were there and nothing happened,” Radhi al-Musawi, Waad’s deputy secretary-general, said.
Prisons opened to ICRC
Meanwhile, the government decided on Friday to open up its prisons to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), following a damning report on human rights abuse in the country, according to an official statement.
Delegates from the ICRC are “to visit inmates at its reformation and rehabilitation centres, as well as detention centres,” Bahrain’s information authority said in the statement.
Permission was granted to the Red Cross to enter Bahraini prisons in line with a memorandum of understanding which was signed on Thursday with the ICRC, it said quoting the interior ministry.
“The Red Cross will also hold training courses on human rights and international humanitarian law for [ministry of interior] personnel to enhance their skills and reinforce and promote a culture of human rights,” the statement added.
Rashed bin Abdullah al-Khalifa, Bahrain’s interior minister, also ordered a series of measures to reform his ministry in line with recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).
The panel last month published a report that found police used “excessive force” and tortured detainees in a crackdown on democracy protests by the country’s majority Shia population in March, and made a series of recommendations.
In compliance with those recommendations, the Bahraini interior minister “issued an order to refer all cases related to deaths, torture and inhumane treatment implicating police to the public prosecution,” the statement said.
It added that cameras were being installed “to ensure visual and audio recording for all official interviews of detainees, including the necessary legislation being prepared”.
UN rights delegation
In a further step to increased transparency, a UN human rights mission will head to Bahrain next week to discuss efforts to establish a democratic society in the Gulf kingdom.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ delegation will “discuss how we can support national efforts towards the establishment of an open and democratic society in Bahrain” during the December 13-16 visit, a UN spokesperson said.
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The mass demonstrations which rocked the Sunni-ruled kingdom earlier this year were violently crushed by government forces using live ammunition and heavy-handed tactics.
The BICI report, published on November 23, said the death toll from the unrest reached 35, including five security personnel and five detainees who were tortured to death while in custody.
Hundreds were also injured, and at least 700 remain in prison.
Bahrain’s King Hamad vowed sweeping reforms and has set up a national commission to follow up on the recommendations made by the panel.
Nuland told reporters the US wanted its ally to “create and support a climate conducive to reconciliation”.
Despite the moves aimed at rebuilding trust with the opposition movement, police used tear gas on Friday to disperse hundreds of protesters in the capital, according to reports.
Witnesses said Friday’s clashes began as demonstrators assembled in the village of Musalla outside the capital, Manama, for Shia ceremonies to mark the holy day of Ashoura.