Last week, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry released a 501-page report detailing the human rights abuses committed by the Bahraini regime at the height of unrest in February and March (See the text and our separate analysis.)
In response, the King and his advisors have decided to shake up their law enforcement. And they have picked an American, with vast experience in handling difficult situations, to help sort things out:
Bahrain's Interior Ministry says a former Miami police chief will lead training programs for the Gulf kingdom's forces as part of reforms after an independent report detailed abuses against pro-reform protesters.
The announcement Thursday says John Timoney will head a team of law enforcement advisers from the U.S. and Britain.
Well, that's good news, right? The Bahraini police force needs some reform, a clean image, and some accountability. Clearly, they also need training, leadership, and restraint, so Timoney's appointment must be the Kingdom's attempt to address the problems raised by the BICI report.
In 2003 The St. Petersburg Times reported on Timoney's approach to reform and "restraint":
Miami police Chief John Timoney must be mighty proud of the social order he maintained during the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit a couple of weeks ago in Miami - sort of the way Saddam Hussein was proud of quieting dissension in his country.
Timoney has a well-deserved reputation for using paramilitary tactics to turn any city where large protests are planned into a place where the Constitution has taken a holiday. During the FTAA meeting on Nov. 20, Timoney dispatched 2,500 police officers in full riot gear against a crowd estimated at 8,000 people, mostly union members and retirees.
The result was a show of force that would have made a Latin American dictator blush.
The Times continues with an indictment of Timoney of all sorts of heavy-handed, tear- gas-laden tactics, including the suppression of free speech and free press and the illegal arrests of demonstrators.
How bad were things in Miami? Bad enough that these people made a full-length documentary on the police brutality at the event.
And now the Bahraini regime seems to think Timoney is ideal for their "new" approach to reform and the opposition.
A longer excerpt from the St. Petersburg Times' article, written by Robyn E. Blumner and published 30 November 2003:
Ever since the melee at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, where demonstrators blocked streets and vandalized stores, conference planners and public officials have adopted a no-holds-barred approach to potential large-scale protests. And Timoney is their man. Militant protesters, "punks" as he calls them, are anathema to Timoney. Shutting them down with Pinkerton prowess is his specialty. Rights, schmights.
Anyone who cares about civil liberties might remember Timoney as the police commissioner of Philadelphia during the 2000 Republican convention - an event marked by police making pre-emptive arrests on baseless charges and smashing heads. This led to lucrative private consulting offers for Timoney and then, this year, to the top-cop spot in Miami.
His antiprotester philosophy is a fitting sign of the times and intersects nicely with the new FBI protocols established by Attorney General John Ashcroft. Ashcroft recently junked FBI guidelines that prevented agents from monitoring groups without evidence of criminal wrongdoing, saying it was vital for antiterrorism operations. But in a J. Edgar Hoover redux, it turns out that this flexibility is being used to spy on and collect intelligence on antiwar protesters.
When men like Timoney and Ashcroft are on the A-list of the nation's law enforcers, free speech doesn't stand a chance. It is open season on dissent. A vignette reported by the Miami Herald says it all: During the FTAA action, Timoney came upon a protester who was pinned against a car being arrested; without knowing anything about the circumstances, he pointed a finger at the demonstrator's face and said, "You're bad. F-- you!" People exercising their First Amendment rights are now considered the enemy.