Lawsuit against Al Wefaq another regressive step for Bahrain

The Bahrain Justice and Development Movement (BJDM) condemn the decision by the Bahraini Ministry of Justice to file a lawsuit against Al Wefaq National Islamic Society. The complaint, sent Sunday 20th July, seeks to ban Al Wefaq from taking part in any activities for 3 months.

BJDM considers the bureaucratic justifications for the complaint to be nothing more than a poorly disguised cover for a direct attack on the political opposition in Bahrain and therefore any hope of a serious political solution.

Al Wefaq is accused of violating the law concerning political societies, through the running of their annual conference. The accusations are completely baseless, with Al Wefaq meeting all the legal requirements internally, as well as the international democratic norms for political organizations. Therefore the decision is an attempt to muzzle the largest voice in Bahrain calling for democratic reform and is putting Bahrain on a path towards an intensified crisis.

The move comes following the charging of two leaders within Al Wefaq for meeting with a US Official earlier this month. The authorities in Bahrain are pursuing a repressive political agenda against Al Wefaq, despite its constructive engagement with the authorities and commitment to non-violent, peaceful protest.

As the largest political society in Bahrain, Al Wefaq has committed itself to the principle of dialogue with the authorities, in order to reach a democratic solution to the crisis that Bahrain has faced since 14th February 2011. The move to suspend their activities will harm any hopes of a renewed dialogue and indicates the authorities unwillingness to restart negotiations.

Therefore it can only be concluded that the Bahraini authorities have no desire to reach a political solution and instead wish to continue to pursue the path of repression, in an attempt to silence all opposing voices. This is the same strategy it has taken for over 3 years and has failed to yield any results, only dragging the country further towards instability and tension.

It should also be noted that the authorities in Bahrain have been pressurizing Al Wefaq to take part in the coming Parliamentary elections, in an attempt to co-opt back into the system, without conceding any democratic concessions. Al Wefaq has regularly stated that it will not take part in any elections without any prior democratic reforms being agreed. If the authorities were serious about the participation of Al Wefaq in the electoral process, it would be using these 3 months to discuss reform measures, rather than stifling their activity.

BJDM calls firstly on the international community to show their disproval of this attempt at shutting down the activities of the legitimate opposition. Countless Governments, including the US and UK have called for a dialogue between the opposition and the authorities, as an acceptance that any solution to the crisis must involve Al Wefaq. If those Governments are serious about this, they must urge for an end to the ongoing targeting of Al Wefaq and its leaders.

Secondly we call on the Ministry of Justice in Bahrain to immediately reverse this decision and instead to restart a political dialogue. Furthermore, we continue to call for the release of all political prisoners, so they may also be incorporated into the discussions for a democratic solution in Bahrain.

The next step to be taken by the Bahraini authorities could define the foreseeable future of the country. It can either pursue this case and push Bahrain into a deeper crisis, or it can accept that stability is only achievable through reform. Bahrain’s international partners must remind their ally of this reality.

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