Bahrain Dissolves Al-Wefaq Opposition Group

Reuters

On Monday, a court in Bahrain dissolved the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the island-nation’s largest opposition group. Al-Wefaq will be shuttered and its funds will be claimed by the state treasury. The decision comes a month after al-Wefaq was closed under an emergency court order requested by the Justice Ministry. The official Bahrain News Agency reported that the court said al-Wefaq “had been in stark violation of constitutional rights,” and “objected [to] the legitimacy of Bahrain’s constitution, supported violent action and posted pictures of terrorists brandishing sharp tools while claiming they were peaceful demonstrators.” The court also claimed that al-Wefaq called “for foreign interference, objected [to] the legitimacy of the legislative branch and constantly exploited places of worship to carry out its political activities.” Al-Wefaq’s defense team had refused to attend the group’s court date after the judge prevented them from accessing al-Wefaq’s offices to prepare their defense, but they are still considering whether to appeal the ruling.

In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said he was “deeply concerned” with the decision, and noted it was “the latest in a series of disconcerting steps” taken by the Bahraini government against opposition forces. The statement also reiterated disappoint at the opposition’s boycott of elections in 2014.  Kerry called on the Bahraini government to “reverse” recent measures against the nonviolent opposition, and emphasized that Manama’s “actions are inconsistent with U.S. interests and strain our partnership with Bahrain. They also contradict the government’s stated commitments to protecting human rights and achieving reconciliation with all of Bahrain’s communities.”

Brian Dooley called the dissolution a “sledgehammer in the face of Bahrain’s already frail politics,” the Bahraini “government’s single most repressive act in five years, and the culmination of a more than a month of intense crackdown designed to choke all remaining voices of dissent.” Dooley called on the U.S. government to “reimpose the ban on arms transfers to Bahrain’s military that the State Department lifted a year ago” and “impose wide-ranging visa bans for Bahraini officials credibly linked to human rights violations.” Five NGO’s, including the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, urged the United States to “denounce the government of Bahrain’s actions, immediately suspend arms sales to Bahrain, and to urge it to call off the decision to dissolve Al-Wefaq Society, and to respect the rights to freedom of association.”