Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Since 2011, everyone in Bahrain, whether young or old, knew who Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni was. At one time, he was deemed a mark of condemnation against the regime, and at other times, a sign of the controversy surrounding the truth of what was still taking place in the country- the political conflict and persecution of the Shiite majority still ongoing to this day.
At the height of the repression, the American-Egyptian man appeared in Bahrain, as a "savior". No one knew him, but with some research, the man turned out to be a famous figure on the level of international law- a professor, judge and a high-level investigator, whom the United Nations depended on and entrusted with many tasks. He also headed UN's fact-finding missions in a number of countries.
The fact-finding Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), established by the King to investigate the events that took place in Bahrain in February and March of 2011, was headed by Bassiouni and also comprised prominent judges, including the late Sir Nigel Rodley, who is known and trusted by the opposition.
Despite their reluctance to be open to the Commission's work, the opposition looked at the commission with a positive view, given that it enjoyed some independence. He opened his offices wide, and headed to meet many. He walked through the streets of villages with his committee, while security forces cracked down on demonstrations and protests. Thousands of people were reassured by him, and went to give their testimonies at the commission's headquarters in Adliya.
Some saw him as a factor to achieve some balance in the actions of the regime and its security services. Prior to his work, the regime ended the emergency decree early and he received an oral promise that the dismissed would return to their jobs
BICI's work comprised a lot of drama, and many tragedies as well. Suddenly, hundreds of political prisoners were released, the treatment of other prisoners changed, especially in military prisons, suspended university students returned to their studies, and to some extent, the harsh tone of the state media against the opposition was turned down. Nonetheless, the movement in the streets did not lose its spark, as the repression did not stop even when Bassiouni was there, and this time, before his eyes more martyrs fell, and he even examined some of their bodies.
Bassiouni himself said that the Commission's course of action was not facilitated, and that the Commissioners and investigators were required to work to meet the expectations of Bahraini citizens to decisively intervene to prevent human rights violations, even while they were there in Bahrain.
Overall, the Commission received nearly 9,000 complaints, statements and testimonies and conducted dozens of on-site investigations throughout the country. Moreover, BICI conducted over 5000 personal interviews with individual complainants at the Commission's offices during which allegations of human rights violations against those individuals and their families were investigated. Bassiouni also met with the well-known 14 figures of the opposition and took a historical photo with them inside Al-Qurain military prison.
Following November 23, 2011, Bassiouni became voice against the government's allegations, lies, fabrications, and crimes. His report was a shock to everyone. The very strict tone of his speech before the King, as he cast a list of accusations and condemnations against him and his government, made that day the most humiliating for the regime.
The King's face showed all the signs of grimness as he listened to Bassiouni's speech, which lasted more than 40 minutes. Perhaps the King's anger was amplified by Bassiouni's use of the word "Bahrani" rather than Bahraini throughout his entire speech. The judge and law professor presented the results of the investigation by explicitly declaring that "the forceful confrontation of demonstrators involving the use of lethal force led to the death of civilians" (on February 14, 2011), noting that "this caused an increase in public anger, increased the number of persons participating in protests, and led to a palpable escalation in their demands.
Like so, Bassiouni told the King in a broadcasted speech that his government had committed crimes of torture, murder, intimidation and retaliation, aimed specifically at members of the Shiite community, only because they were dissidents. Bassiouni's speech shattered the myth of the so-called "Iranian interference", when he publicly announced that his commission found no evidence of it.
In the years to come, the BICI report became locally known as the Bassiouni Report. Amid the absence of an authority that has the power to make the Bahraini government commit to the implementation of the recommendations stated in the report, or evaluate the credibility of their implementation, everyone considered Bassiouni's statements to be the most credible and influential.
As expected, the government tried to morph the report, use it for its own interest and claim to have implemented its recommendations. Bassiouni was repeatedly accused of allowing the government to use him to promote this through his controversial statements, which were contradictory from time to time, but his maneuvers usually ended with a statement or comments attacking and openly criticizing the regime.
On Monday, September 25, 2017, the international judge, whose name entered the homes of Bahrainis, passed away at the age of 79.
Historically, this prominent man reminds Bahrainis of Major Daly, who left a mark on the collective memory of Bahrainis when he issued his famous report in 1921, which ended with the British authorities deposing the then ruler of Bahrain, Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa.
Although Bassiouni's report does not have the power to depose anyone or make a difference on that level, his testimony will remain recorded in Bahrain's history.