And so they should.
A security officer’s job is thankless, hard and requires intelligence, self-control, continuous training and much empathy with people of all walks of life. They also continuously have to make tough choices which must always fall within the rule of law; hence, their continuous appropriate training is critical. The title of “albawasil” – the courageous ones – which is given to them is not undeserved.
They must also continuously be on their best behaviour and must curtail and suppress animalistic instincts and urges to viciously respond to difficult situations with excessive use of force. As security officers, they know that they are always held to much higher standards than the persons they are paid to protect. It is a very tough and demanding job indeed. Not everyone is cut out to be one of the cadres of the Bawasil.
Unfortunately the above description does not wholly apply to the security forces in this country, as much as I would dearly love it be so.
Some of the security officers here do anything but suppress their urges, as witnessed by hundreds of videos on the Internet clearly showing them breaking the very laws they are employed to protect. The BICI itself reserved a large proportion of its findings to clearly show the intransigence of some of the security forces, the contempt they held citizens in and the havoc they wreaked since February last year which so far resulted in five confirmed deaths under torture while in custody and tens killed and attributed to their interventions.
Empathy, on the police’s part, seem to be completely lacking both in the local and foreign cadres. With some of the officers being Bahraini, one would think that they would be more empathetic; hence, act in a better and more humane fashion toward their charges, or in the least act within the bounds of international human rights and norms. That empathy, if it exists in the local cadres, seem to be evidently absent in the foreign recruits. With the vast majority of the MoI’s cadres being foreign and ignorant of our norms and language, how can they even begin to be empathetic to the citizens of this country? Is it a wonder then that they themselves resorted to their own embassies for protection rather than raise their concerns with their own superiors? Of course not. They sought empathy from their countries and brethren as any normal human would; but what they’ve demonstrated by that single action is show that their loyalty does not reside with their employer, let alone to the country that provides for their livelihoods. With that irresponsible action, they’ve also clearly demonstrated the fact that they do not hold their employers in much regard and trust, or at least, they must have recognised that those superiors would not provide them the needed succor and protection. For that, they resorted to their own embassies.
The Cabinet seems to have taken note of their fears and thought of doing something pro-active to address them by proposing tougher sentences on those who attack the police:
The Cabinet yesterday endorsed the compilation of a new bill to ensure stricter punishment for those who attack policemen. According to the suggested amendments, a penalty of 15 years in prison would be awarded to both inciters and attackers.
The Cabinet tasked the body concerned to prepare the necessary legal papers and refer the bill to the Legislative authority.
The decision was made after Interior Minister Lt General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa presented a comprehensive document on the growing violence in the Kingdom.
Prime Minister HRH Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa said that the mounting violence, which resulted in injuries to security personnel in the Kingdom, must be encountered and halted.
He spoke as he chaired the regular Cabinet meeting.
The Cabinet then expressed sorrow in view of growing provocative calls to attack policemen in the Kingdom. [source]
I have no quarrel in principle for the cabinet to demand these increased penalties and I hope that these won’t be open-ended measures which could haphazardly open the doors for further abuse of rights. There is a question of degrees however. With 15 years nominally being a life sentence, isn’t the proposed penalty non-consistent with those limits? Or are there now consequent moves afoot to increase the other sentences to be in concert with this proposal?
With these tough sentences being proposed, it would have been an opportune moment to also remind police personnel that although the government is very keen to protect their safety, it is also the government’s foremost responsibility, as it is their’s, to protect the rights of the individual and it will hold them as security personnel of all ranks to a much higher standard of conduct. There is a real fear that this new proposal might increase the sense of unassailability, and impunity as the BICI report has confirmed, if penalties are considered like this without putting them in the proper frame of reference.
The Cabinet should have also dealt with the police’s loyalty issue, for those who sought the protection of foreign embassies have shown complete contempt for this Kingdom. Can we expect those very police personnel to then acquiesce to orders given by foreign leaders against instructions issued by the hierarchy of this country? I would have thought that the criticality of this issue should have been paramount in the Cabinet’s agenda. Ironically, its resolution is simplicity itself: hire local born and bred Bahrainis to have the honor to serve their flag and their leadership and phase out the foreign cadres with our generous thanks and help them transition to lead pleasant old lives in their own countries.
Another opportunity that the government might have considered through its judicial branch is to demonstrate to us citizens that no one is above the law. Just as it is expedient to apply the law onto those who attack the police, it is as such for those in power who abuse their positions, regardless of whomever they are. With over 80 current cases referred to the Public Prosecutor of police brutality and abuse of power ranging from killing protestors in their charges to torture and wrongful imprisonment, I can’t remember a case where a policeman was penalized – or even censured – for his or her wrongful actions, and I’m not talking about the known torturers who were let slip through due to Law 56 of 2002 either.
I pray for the protection of every single policeman and woman doing their honorable duty in this country and elsewhere around the world. Done properly and within the bounds of human rights, they are the vanguard of safety and security. They are the key to continued peace and stability in any country and they should – indeed, must - be protected physically, legislatively and mentally for their sacrifices, but not at the cost of their impunity. Having mechanisms to independently police the police will help them maintain that peace and tranquility that every society craves.
I also pray for the safety and security of every single citizen and resident of this country from violence and brutality howsoever those may occur and dream of a day where we all bask in the protection of universal human rights, equitable and honorable lives.
I beseech everyone, everyone, in light of the approach of the first anniversary of the Bahraini Spring, to stay calm and think of what is best for this pained and fractured country and its people and get those thoughts to transcend personal prejudices and hate. Think of resolution and rapprochement rather than pour even more fuel on already raging fires.