On September 17, Khalil al-Marzooq, Assistant Secretary General of al-Wefaq, was arrested by Bahraini security forces for ‘inciting and advocating terrorism,’ in reference to a speech al-Marzooq gave earlier this month. In response, al-Wefaq, and other opposition parties withdrew from the national dialogue, which had just resumed last month following a hiatus for Ramadan. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain condemns this abuse of power and intolerance for differing perspectives exercised by the Bahrain government through its arrest of al-Marzooq and calls for his immediate release.
“The imprisonment of Khalil al-Marzooq is yet another example of the abuse of power so often exercised by the Government of Bahrain it its attempt to silence dissenting voices and quash the peaceful uprising that has persisted there for over two years,” said ADHRB Director Husain Abdulla. “The arrest of al-Marzooq, in addition to the recent ministerial resolution requiring political societies to obtain permission from the Bahrain government prior to contacting for political parties or organizations, casts serious doubt on the government’s claims of a commitment to reform and reconciliation,” Abdulla said.
In a statement released by the US Department of State, Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf noted the US Government’s concern regarding both the arrest of al-Marzooq and the recent ministerial resolution, urging the Bahrain government to “reverse its recent order constraining engagement with foreign governments and international organizations and ensure civil society has the space it needs to be a constructive partner.” Additionally, Ms. Harf called on the Government of Bahrain to “abide by its commitment to the freedom of expression, to respect due process rights, and to provide transparent and fair judicial proceedings for those charged with crimes.” Ms. Harf also emphasized the necessity for all parties to renounce violence and participate in the National Dialogue process, saying the dialogue provides “the best path to national reconciliation and regional stability.”
“We applaud the US State Department for their recent statement on Bahrain, but remain deeply concerned by the recent developments on the ground, which show a trend towards further suppression of civil society, peaceful dissent, and basic human rights,” Abdulla said. “We strongly urge the US Government to have a firm and candid conversation with the Government of Bahrain to inform them that such suppression will not be tolerated, and indeed sends a negative message regarding the seriousness with which the Bahrain government takes the need for democratic reform and a national dialogue in Bahrain.”
“As President Obama noted in May 2011, ‘the only way forward (in Bahrain) is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail,’” Abdulla reminded. “While arbitrary arrests and impunity may afford the Bahraini people the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to nonviolence, these are not conditions under which a fruitful dialogue can occur. We call on the Bahrain government to immediately release Khalil al-Marzooq, enact the many recommendations for reform it has received both from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and the United Nation’s Universal Period Review, and to enter into a meaningful and fruitful dialogue with the opposition,” Abdulla said.