The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry was established on 29th June 2011 in the Kingdom of Bahrain pursuant to Royal Order No. 28 by His Majesty, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Although commissions of inquiry are usually established by a UN mandate, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) was a national commission. The King’s legal advisers engaged in a consultative process with various international and regional bodies and high-level international personalities who recommended Professor Bassiouni. As a result, a recommendation was made to the King to appoint Professor Bassiouni as Chairman. In turn, Professor Bassiouni recommended the four other members, namely, President Philippe Kirsch (Canada/Belgium), Professor Badria A. Al-Awadhi (Kuwait), Professor Sir Nigel Simon Rodley (UK), and Professor Mahnoush H. Arsanjani (Iran).
The Commission was tasked with investigating and reporting on the events in Bahrain during February 2011 and the consequences of those events. Prior to accepting the position of Chairman, Professor Bassiouni met with King Hamad and submitted to him a list of what he considered to be essential elements in the royal mandate, with particular emphasis on the independence of the commission and its ability to undertake its mission. King Hamad was most cooperative, and the royal decree (Royal Order No. 28) he issued on 29 June 2011 essentially established all of the necessary conditions for the independence and the integrity of the Commission’s work. The Chairman was given responsibility for the hiring of the investigation and administrative staff and for developing the Commission’s methods of operation.
The Commission’s staff consisted of 51 persons who worked for various periods of time, including 12 investigators, 12 assistants to the investigators, five administrators, four administrative assistants and 18 technical and scientific consultants. Between July and October 2011, it received 8,110 complaints and statements of various human rights abuses relevant to its mandate, conducted 65 primary site visits, held 48 primary meetings with various government agencies, and followed up thereafter with many follow-up visits. The Bahraini government produced hundreds of pages of reports and answers to queries. The Commission also received reports and information from organizations within and outside the country, representing all political groups. The staff met with over 3,000 victims, witnesses, and interested persons. It reported to the government a number of abuses, resulting in over 300 prisoner releases and the cessation of any torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment against any detainee as of July 2011. The Commission worked without hindrance, maintained an independent budget, kept its own records, and produced its own report, which was publically disseminated The government subsequently implemented many of the report’s recommendations. This was probably the most successful fact-finding investigation ever to be conducted within a national context during ongoing internal conflict.
The Commission benefitted from the full support of King Hamad and his Cabinet. It had complete access at any time and without prior notice to prisons, hospitals, and any other public establishment it sought to visit, including unfettered access to prisoners and injured persons. It also had open and free access to all those from whom it sought testimony or evidence.
The Commission filed its Report on 23 November 2011, in a public ceremony. The Report contained a number of recommendations that the King and the government committed themselves to undertaking. Subsequently, many of the Commission’s recommendations were in fact implemented. In this regard, the government of the Kingdom of Bahrain continues it efforts to improve the quality of justice in Bahrain.