Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bahrain Continues to Crackdown

The United States and the international community have desperately failed the brave people of Bahrain. After weeks of peaceful demonstrations the protesters were violently forced off the streets by foreign troops while we did nothing. Human Rights Watch reports that doctors and activists have subsequently been targeted and the below wire suggests that all of the MPs from al-Wefaq party who successfully resigned in protest over the violence may be soon prosecuted. Furthermore not all of their resignations were technically accepted, a tactical move that postpones new elections. All of this means that Bahrain is now more autocratic than before the protests began. By failing to take any meaningful political action against the government in Bahrain, while militarily intervening in Libya, the United States and the internationally community are going to be viewed as complicit in this oppression.

Shiite ex-MPs Exposed to Prosecution in Bahrain

By Mohammed Fadhel
Agence France Presse
Wednesday, 30 March 2011

MANAMA — Bahrain's parliament on Tuesday accepted the resignation of 11 Shiite MPs, exposing them to possible legal action, after a news blackout on the arrests of top activists in a crackdown on anti-regime protests.

In a unanimous vote the house "accepted the resignations of 11 MPs of Al-Wefaq", which with 18 seats makes up the largest bloc in the 40-member parliament of the Shiite-majority state, official news agency BNA said.

It said parliament decided to postpone a vote on the other seven members of Al-Wefaq, which heads the opposition in the Gulf country ruled by a Sunni royal family.

Al-Wefaq members resigned en masse in protest at the use of deadly force against demonstrators.

Tuesday's vote cleared the way for the possible prosecution of the outspoken former MPs now stripped of parliamentary immunity, following calls for the opposition to face charges in court.

On March 16, Bahraini security forces drove the mostly Shiite protesters out of central Manama's Pearl Square and demolished their camp under a state of emergency, ending a month-long campaign on the streets.

Bahrain's interior minister told parliament on Tuesday that a total of 24 people were killed, including four policemen, in the month of unrest and linked the troubles to Lebanon's Shiite militant movement Hezbollah.

Sheikh Rashed bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa pointed to methods used by the protesters as well as statements of support from the Iranian-backed movement and from Tehran to corroborate his accusation.

Former Shiite MP Matar Matar, meanwhile, argued parliament's move on Tuesday was "illogical" in accepting some Wefaq resignations and ignoring the rest. Technically, Bahrain's parliament can operate in the absence of Al-Wefaq.

But Sunni MP Ali Ahmed said the remaining seven cases were left pending in order to avoid any need to hold partial elections in their constituencies at a time of tension, with Shiite villages under tight security.

Sunni Islamists and independent MPs pushed for the vote to accept the resignations, despite calls for a postponement to avoid an escalation.

Wefaq suspended its membership in parliament on February 15 in protest at the use of lethal force against demonstrators in Shiite villages, where two demonstrators were shot dead.

They stepped down at the end of February after the death toll in protests had risen to seven. At least 15 Shiites were killed in the clashes with security forces, according to an Al-Wefaq toll.

Bahrain's military prosecutor, meanwhile, has imposed a news blackout on a probe of several leading opposition activists arrested during the crackdown on anti-regime protests.

Colonel Yosuf Fulaifel said the defendants were being investigated under the emergency law announced last month by the king, according to a statement carried by BNA news agency.

The US State Department said earlier this month it was "deeply troubled" by the arrests, especially of Ibrahim Sharif, head of Wa'ad, a political society, and Ali Al-Ekri, a doctor detained after criticising hospital conditions.

A coalition of seven opposition groups, backed by lawyers, has written to Bahrain's public prosecutor protesting the handling of the probe by the military prosecutor.

They stressed that the king announced an "emergency law and not martial law," meaning that cases of detained civilians "remain within the jurisdiction of civil courts".

A deadlock between the government and the opposition has persisted despite reports of a Kuwait-sponsored mediation aimed at launching a national dialogue between the two sides as proposed by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad.

In a telephone call on Sunday, US Vice President Joe Biden urged Crown Prince Salman to open the long-mooted talks with opposition leaders.

Biden "recognised the important steps taken by the crown prince to reach out to the opposition and that law and order are necessary" for dialogue to go ahead, the White House said in a statement.

But he also "encouraged additional outreach and meaningful reform that is responsive to the aspirations of all Bahrainis", it said.

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