An international panel set up by the king of Bahrain has begun to investigate months of Shi'ite-led protests that rocked the Persian Gulf island kingdom earlier this year, leaving more than 30 people dead.
A scene from anti-government protests in Bahrain (June 2011)
The head of the five-member commission, Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, said Sunday his team will meet with government and military officials, opposition leaders and activists, including those in custody for their role in the demonstrations. Bassiouni said his team also will look at the role of security forces during the protests.
He said the panel will report its findings in October.
Bassiouni is an Egyptian-American law professor who has led U.N. investigations into alleged war crimes in Bosnia and, more recently, Libya. The commission also has Canadian judge and former ICC president Philippe Kirsch, British human rights lawyer Nigel Rodley, Iranian lawyer Mahnoush Arsanjani and a Kuwaiti Islamic law expert, Badria al-Awadhi.
Bahrain's Sunni rulers imposed martial law and crushed weeks of pro-democracy protests led mostly by majority Shi'ites in March. The state of emergency was lifted June 1. At least 32 people were killed during the crackdown, hundreds were arrested - mostly Shi'ites - and 2,000 were dismissed or suspended from their jobs.
Bahrain has said it will give the commission access to official files and allow it to meet witnesses in secret. The government in Manama denies any systematic abuse by police. Instead, it has accused protesters of pursuing a sectarian agenda backed by the neighboring Shi'ite power, Iran.
Bassiouni told reporters Sunday the real task will be for the government to act on the commission's recommendations.
The rights group Amnesty International has endorsed the panel, praising the integrity and expertise of its members.
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