By Ray Fleming

ONE of the most remarkable outcomes of the Arab Spring was seen yesterday in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, when the state's ruler King Hamad publicly reversed his government's position on the events of February and March and accepted an independent inquiry's finding that his security forces “used excessive force during a crackdown on demonstrators calling for democratic reforms”. The inquiry, appointed by King Hamad after international criticism of the events in Bahrain, delivered a 500 page report detailing the use of physical and psychological torture as well as whipping, kicking, and electric shock to get confessions from detainees.

King Hamad and his government had initially denied the atrocities reported by his citizens, foreign observers and the international media but yesterday, speaking on TV to a large assembly, he pledged that he would “do everything possible so these painful events won't be repeated” and said that Bahrain's laws would “be made to comply with international standards on freedom of speech and basic human rights.” Amnesty International praised the King for appointing the inquiry and accepting its findings but added that implementation of the promised reforms should be monitored closely.

Both Saudi Arabia, its neighbour, and America, because it is the home base of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, have strong interests in the tiny state of Bahrain but their reactions to yesterday's development will probably be very different.


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