Bahrain Suspends Opposition Group for Three Months
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First said that today’s three-month suspension of the Bahraini opposition group al Wefaq is likely to lead to more friction and instability in the country as it prepares for parliamentary elections.
“With less than four weeks until Bahrain’s parliamentary elections, the decision to suspend al Wefaq looks far from coincidental,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Stifling peaceful dissent is inviting trouble, especially when political tensions are so high. The U.S. government should make clear to its military ally Bahrain that suspending al Wefaq is likely to backfire, increasing international scrutiny, instability, and unrest.”
Today’s court decision is a response to claims made by the Bahrain Justice Ministry that al Wefaq has failed to comply with rules about holding general meetings. Earlier this year, senior U.S. State Department official Tom Malinowski was expelled from Bahrain after he met with al Wefaq leaders.
Al Wefaq and other opposition groups had declared their intention to boycott the November 22 elections to protest an unfair electoral system. Al Wefaq is not running candidates in the election. Bahrain government officials have said “upcoming elections on November 22nd are not in need of any international observers.”
“Whether you agree with the boycott or not, al Wefaq has the right to use peaceful means to persuade people not to vote. This decision removes their ability to organize that campaign – it won’t be able to issue press releases or hold public meetings. Today’s ruling takes Bahrain further off the path to democracy,” added Dooley.
This decision comes as other prominent human rights defenders await verdicts on politically-motivated charges. Tomorrow, a Bahrain court is expected to issue the verdict on the case of Nabeel Rajab, who is charged with insulting the ministries of the interior and defense on Twitter. The following day, the verdict is due in the trial of prominent activist Zainab Al Khawaja, charged with tearing up a photo of the king. Other key opposition and civil society figures remain in prison.
Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government to publicly press the Bahraini regime to release its political prisoners. Human Rights First urges the U.S. government to send observers to the trials of human rights activists and to state publicly whether proceedings meet international legal standards.