* Abuses were "in violation of government policy"
* Commission report to be released on Wednesday
By Andrew Hammond
DUBAI, Nov 21 Bahrain admitted on Monday
its forces had used excessive force and mistreated detainees
during democracy protests, as it awaited the release of an
independent report expected to be critical of the Gulf state's
handling of the unrest.
"The government has carried out its own assessments and
conducted its own investigations. These investigations have
revealed things to praise as well as things to deplore," said a
cabinet statement sent to Reuters in English.
"Regrettably, there have been instances of excessive force
and mistreatment of detainees. This was in violation of
government policy. Twenty prosecutions against the officers
involved have been initiated," it went on.
The death of a Bahraini teenager after he was run over by
police during protests last week has raised the stakes ahead of
the release of a report into the government's crushing of the
democracy protest movement early this year.
Sixteen-year-old Ali Yousef al-Sitrawi was killed during a
protest in the Juffair district of Manama. The government said a
police vehicle lost control because of oil spilt on the road
deliberately by protesters, but opposition activists say police
often drove straight at them.
More than 40 people have been killed in the unrest which
began in February, when thousands of Bahrainis, inspired by
uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and led by the Shi'ite majority,
took over Pearl Roundabout in Manama demanding reforms.
A month later Bahrain called in Saudi and UAE troops to help
crush the protests and imposed martial law.
The statement said the penal code would be amended to outlaw
torture and the government would set up a National Human Rights
The Sunni-led government has said the protests were fomented
by Shi'ite power Iran and aimed to establish a Shi'ite Islamist
republic like Iran's. Opposition parties say the ruling elite
are playing on sectarian fears to avoid reform.
REPORT DUE ON WEDNESDAY
The report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of
Investigation (BICI) is due to be presented to King Hamad at a
formal ceremony in his palace on Wednesday. The king requested
the formation of the commission, led by eminent international
rights lawyers, in June.
It is already surrounded by controversy.
The Bahraini opposition and majority Shi'ites say they
expect it to play down the harshness of the government crackdown
and the United States Congress has linked arms sales to Bahrain
on the government's response to it.
Street protests in Shi'ite districts could erupt after the
release of the report, which the government has feted in
official media in advance.
The cabinet statement said police had suffered over 800
casualties and accused opposition protesters of provocation.
"Our police forces have generally shown admirable restraint
when faced with great provocation. Every civilian casualty is a
defeat for the government. The extremists know this, and have
engaged in reckless provocation," it said.
"The police have suffered 846 injuries since the beginning
of the events; four deaths; innumerable threats and insults,
especially to their families."
The economy of the island state has suffered during the
civil unrest. Some banks and other firms have relocated business
elsewhere in the Gulf.
Bahrain offered a high interest rate of 6.273 percent on an
Islamic bond worth $750 million last week, with less turnout
than usual from Asian consumers of debt, in a sign of investor
concern about stability in Bahrain.
The government held a "national dialogue" in June which led
to some promises of parliamentary reforms. But they stop short
of the key opposition demand of giving the elected chamber
legislative powers and power to form cabinets.
Bahrain's government is headed by the world's
longest-serving prime minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman, an
uncle of King Hamad who has occupied the post since 1971.
(Writing by Andrew Hammond, Editing by Joseph Logan)