U.S. Should Monitor, Publicly Assess Bahrain Prosecution of Khalil Al Marzooq
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today called on the United States Embassy in Bahrain to send official observers to the trial of detained prominent Bahraini opposition leader Khalil Al Marzooq, whose trial is due to open on Thursday, October 24. The organization also urged the U.S. State Department to assess whether the trial meets international fair trial standards and to make its findings public.
Al Marzooq is a senior member of the Al Wefaq political group. He was arrested last month on charges of “inciting and advocating terrorism” after a public speech he gave in Manama on September 6, 2013. Al Marzooq and Al Wefaq have publicly committed to peaceful non-violent means of protest, including signing a November 2012 “Declaration of Principles of Nonviolence.” During his September 6 speech, Al Marzooq reiterated his commitment to peaceful protest, stating, “We can do nothing except help and support all peaceful movements.”
During a mission to Bahrain in October 2012, Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino and board member Rear Admiral John Hutson (USN, ret.) met with Khalil Al Marzooq, as well as a range of other government, opposition, and civil society figures. Human Rights First has not been allowed back into Bahrain since that visit.
“We had a thoughtful and measured discussion about the political and human rights situation in Bahrain,” said Massimino. “Khalil is widely respected as a moderating force in Bahrain’s increasingly polarized political climate. It would send an important signal for the U.S. government to attend the trial and publicly state whether it meets international fair trial standards.”
Hutson noted, “Khalil struck me as somebody who is ready to work toward a peaceful political solution in Bahrain. His voice should be encouraged and supported, not silenced. Having witnessed some court proceedings during my time in Bahrain, I’m concerned about whether he will get a fair trial.”
President Obama declared in May 2011 that “you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail. The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.” Al Marzooq’s detention adds to the number of political opposition leaders who are in jail and unable to help lead Bahrain out of its crisis. While the U.S. Embassy in Manama has sent observers to several prominent political trials in Bahrain during the last few years, it has not made public its views on whether those trials met international fair trial standards.