When They Were Friends: US Congressional Delegate Eni Faleomavaega (left) with King Hamad's advisor (second from left)
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2030 GMT: King Hamad has ratified constitutional changes that he said herald political reconcilation: "The door of dialogue is open and national accord is the goal of all dialogue. We hope at this important stage that all national forces and groups...will join in development and reform."
The amendments bolster the legislature's powers to question and remove ministers and withdraw confidence in the Cabinet. They came out of a national dialogue the king mandated after last year's uprising.
The leading opposition society Al Wefaq was not satisfied, however. "The amendments have not changed the core of the dispute and have not ended the crisis. They have not met the people's hopes and they have consecrated the constitution of 2002 which gives the authorities the keys of government," said Khalil Marzouq, a senior member. "There is no way these amendments can reflect popular will."
The opposition want changes that would give the elected parliament full powers to legislate and form cabinets.
1300 GMT: A report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, summarsing the situation in Bahrain, has maintained questions about the regime's commitment to reform in a number of areas, from social rights to the security and protection of individuals. An extract:
CRC [Commission on the Rights of Children] noted with concern reports according to which torture had been used during the political events in 2011, including against persons under the age of 18. It recommended that
Bahrain promptly investigate allegations of torture and prosecute perpetrators.
CRC urged Bahrain to take measures to ensure that no child was subjected to torture, and to prohibit torture in law. Preventive measures needed to include independent monitoring of places of detention and comprehensive training for security and police personnel.
CRC was concerned that the political unrest had had disturbing influences on the children in Bahrain, resulting in breaches of the basic rights of children to survival, health and protection.
In 2012, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders was concerned about the significant number of allegations received and communications sent between December 2010 and November 2011, and about the physical and psychological integrity of human rights defenders in Bahrain. She was concerned in particular at the reported practice of detention in undisclosed locations and about the treatment of human rights defenders while in detention. The Special Rapporteur also remained very concerned about the situation of six detainees sentenced to life imprisonment on 22 June 2011....
On 21 December 2011, the High Commissioner urged the Government to address the prevailing impunity, including for security forces responsible for excessive use of force and officers who had perpetrated torture, sometimes with fatal consequences, in detention centres. Although some security officers had reportedly been arrested, there had been no prosecutions of security forces for civilian injuries and deaths. She acknowledged the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry as an important first step in the right direction, and welcomed the subsequent acknowledgement by the King of Bahrain that serious human rights violations had occurred and needed to be addressed. The High Commissioner emphasized that concrete steps needed to be taken towards redress, reparation and reconciliation.
0530 GMT: We have noted how Eni Faleomavaega, the Congressional delegate from American Samoa, has been one of the most vocal supporters of the regime, returning from trips to the kingdom to tout the enlightened monarchy and denounce the threatening opposition as agents of Iran.
No longer, as Justin Elliott documents for Pro Publica:
In his trip to Bahrain earlier this month, including a meeting with the Prime Minister, Faleomavaega called on the Government to implement the reforms set out in November's reports by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. He raised the case of Jaffar Salman, who reportedly could not get medical treatment after he was hit in the face with birdshot.
Subsequently, Salman did make it to the hospital, and the opposition society Al Wefaq credited Faleomavaega for raising the case. The delegate published the letter from Al Wefaq thanking him in the Congressional Record. He added, “After the government crackdown on government protestors, the situation in Bahrain is alarming.”
That is a sharp contrast from Faleomavaega's reaction after a trip in October 2011, when he worried about “the prospect of anarchy or the violent overthrow of a peaceful government by infiltrators from another country” and complained that he did “not show enough understanding for the legitimate demands for reform.”