Al-Wefaq Calls for Royal Participation in Dialogue
In an interview with BBC, Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of Bahrain’s leading opposition group, al-Wefaq, said he wanted Crown Prince Salman al-Khalifa to participate in the upcoming national dialogue. The Bahraini government has said it will act as a facilitator rather than a participant, but Salman said, “We want someone who can speak for the royal family.” The Crown Prince is considered to be one of the divided royal family’s reformists, the group that Salman said the opposition must work with to make progress. He noted that the opposition and the Crown Prince had forged an agreement in March 2011 before Gulf Cooperation Council troops arrived to restore order, ending that dialogue. Salman said, ”US policy needs to be more clear and direct. The United States government needs to pressure harder for human rights and democratic practices.” He also called for the release of the 13 activists who had their sentences upheld earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch released its World Report 2013, in which it stated that “Bahrain’s failure to release political prisoners or hold accountable high officials responsible for torture, and its escalating campaign to silence human rights defenders, exposes the government’s fraudulent claims that it is carrying out promised reforms.” Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East director, said, “Unfortunately, 2012 was the year that Bahrain’s ruling family showed it prioritizes repression over reform…the government shifted from talking about reforms to silencing critical voices, banning demonstrations, and restricting access to independent journalists and rights organizations.” He added, “This year the government needs to act on its reform rhetoric by setting free all peaceful protesters.”