Bahrain defends human rights record at UN

Bahraini officials defended the Gulf kingdom's record before the U.N.'s top human rights body Monday by insisting that the government has moved to investigate alleged abuses and compensate victims during the 15-month uprising by majority Shiites against the ruling Sunni monarchy.

The U.N. Human Rights Council's review of Bahrain's human rights record, part of a routine assessment that all 193 U.N. member nations undergo every four years, comes at a particularly sensitive time following widespread protests and the monarchy's crackdown on dissent.

Bahrain's human rights minister Salah bin Ali Mohammed Abdulrahman led a delegation Monday making the case that government is moving quickly to improve its human rights record after allegations of abuses by Bahraini security forces and crackdowns such as widespread arrests and workplace purges.

"We reaffirm the importance of national dialogue," he said. "The kingdom of Bahrain will deal positively and constructively with all the recommendations that have been submitted, and we shall attach high importance to this process."

Members of the 47-nation council, whose report on Bahrain is due Wednesday, urged the nation to grant new trials to activists convicted in military courts. A Bahraini court last month ordered a full re-examination of the cases against mostly Shiite activists found guilty last year of plots to overthrow the Western-allied Sunni dynasty.

Diplomats lauded Bahrain for setting up an independent inquiry into the crackdown, but called for urgent action on findings that security forces resorted to unnecessary and excessive force against protesters and many detainees were tortured or had their rights violated.

More than 50 people have died in the unrest between forces loyal to the ruling Sunni monarchy, whose nations hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, and the country's majority Shiites who seek a greater voice in national affairs.