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Bahrain: 20 security forces charged with abuse of protesters

Bahrain has charged 20 members of its security forces with abusing protesters during recent anti-government demonstrations, the government announced Monday.

Bahrain manama protests 2011 08 29Enlarge
Bahraini Shiites women cry during Bahiya al-Aradi's funeral in Manama on March 22, 2011. Aradi, 51, went missing on March 16, and a car that she drove was found the day after in al-Qadam village, west of Manama, with bloodstains on the driver's seat. She was pronounced dead on March 21 after being shot in the head. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

Bahrain has charged 20 members of the security forces with abusing protesters during recent anti-government demonstrations, the cabinet announced Monday.

The government's investigation of the violence, in which at least 35 people were killed, has also prompted it to rewrite Bahrain's criminal code to outlaw all forms of torture, and set up a new, independent human rights body, the cabinet said.

In a statement published by Bahrain News Agency, the government acknowledged protesters had been abused, but denied that it gave orders for their mistreatment:

"Regrettably, there have been instances of excessive force and mistreatment of detainees.

"This was in violation of government policy. 20 prosecutions against the officers involved have been initiated. This is in no way the limit of the steps that will be taken."

The statement praised the majority of police for showing "admirable restraint" in the face of "reckless provocation" by extremists seeking to undermine the government.

The government does not excuse wrongdoing by its security forces, it said, and will hold all those responsible fully accountable.

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The announcement comes as Manama awaits the release of an independent report into the authorities' handling of the unrest, Reuters reported.

The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, made up of international rights lawyers, is due to present their findings Wednesday. It is expected to be critical of the government, though the Bahraini opposition fears it will play down the extent of the authorities crackdown, Reuters said.

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At least 35 people have been killed since Bahrain's Shi'ite majority began protests to demand greater rights from teh Sunni majority in February, according to Amnesty International. More than 500 people are reported to have been arrested and almost 2,000 dismissed or suspended from their jobs on suspicion of supporting the demonstrations.

A 16-year-old protester was killed Saturday by a police car, in an incident authorities blamed on demonstrators who allegedly poured oil into the road, the Associated Press reported. The funeral procession was then broken up by security forces firing tear gas, the boy's family said.

Bahraini civil society organizations will publish their own report into the unrest a day after the official one is released, said Amnesty.

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