A preeminent international law expert, DePaul University’s Cherif Bassiouni helped create the International Criminal Court and has investigated war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Afghanistan. He’s currently serving as president emeritus of DePaul University’s International Human Rights Law Institute.
The United Nations recently tapped him to examine human rights violations in Libya, but lately, Bassiouni has spent a lot of time in the tiny Gulf state of Bahrain.
On June 29, the kingdom set up an independent commission to examine the government crackdown on the majority Shiite opposition, following protests in February and March against the Sunni regime. Bahrain asked Bassiouni to chair the commission, comprised of leading international law specialists. Their report, paid for by the government, is due later this month.
His task is a challenging one. In Bahrain, the Arab Spring is far from over. In the small country of 1.25 million people, the Shiite Muslim majority feels deep separation from the Sunni minority, to which the ruling Al Kahifla family belongs.
In the last two days, Bahraini courts have sentenced a total of 60 people to prison for their involvement in the protests. According to the state news agency, the demonstrators were found guilty of crimes that included falsifying news, rioting and vandalism.
And last week, the courts sentenced doctors and medical workers who treated protesters to prison for up to 15 years, shocking organizations like Physicians for Human Rights. One protester received the death penalty for killing a policeman by running over him intentionally with his car several times.
Critics say the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry is too close to the government to be effective.
But Bassiouni disagrees.
On Tuesday, he spoke at length with Worldview host Jerome McDonnell to discuss the commission’s findings and the controversies that have ensued.
Click on the audio link atop the page to hear their conversation in its entirety.
Note: This story was updated on October 18 to include additional details relating to the prison sentences.