Bahrain cancels visit of UN torture envoy

Bahraini women hold stones during clashes with riot police following a protest against the Formula One Grand Prix on 21 April 2013 in the village of Sanabis, west of Manama. (Photo: AFP - Mohammed al-Shaikh)

Published Thursday, April 25, 2013

The UN's envoy on torture voiced his "deep disappointment" Wednesday after Bahrain, rocked by renewed clashes between security forces and pro-democracy activists, postponed his planned visit.

"This is the second time that my visit has been postponed, at very short notice," United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez said in a statement.

"It is effectively a cancellation as no alternative dates were proposed nor is there a future road map to discuss," he said. "This postponement could be perceived as if there is something to hide."

Mendez said he had received on April 22 a letter from the Gulf kingdom informing him that the ongoing national dialogue was taking longer than expected and that his visit could impact negatively on the proceedings.

"Due to the sensitivity of my mandate there will never be a perfect time for my visit," the envoy said.

Sunni-ruled Bahrain was rocked by month-long pro-democracy protests led by the kingdom's Shia majority in early 2011 that were crushed with the help of Saudi-led troops.

The ensuing dialogue failed and was only resumed in February.

Several reports accusing Bahrain of failing to hold senior officials responsible for the 2011 violence were released in recent weeks.

Bahrain's decision comes after a spike in anti-government protests and reports of torture of those held in prisons. However, huge security deployments prevented any disruption to the April 21 Formula One Grand Prix.

(AFP, AP)

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