For the past two years, with the support of the international community, the Bahraini government and opposition groups have been embarking on an important process of dialogue and reform. Recent developments, however, have diminished the space for civil society’s engagement in this process, eroding the prospects for dialogue and creating an atmosphere that will hinder reform and reconciliation. The United States notes with concern that the Government of Bahrain has recently issued decrees restricting the rights and abilities of political groups to assemble, associate, and express themselves freely, including by regulating their communications with foreign governments and international organizations. We also note with concern the detention of opposition leader Khalil al-Marzooq.
We believe that Bahrain’s National Dialogue and reform processes provide the best path to national reconciliation and regional stability, and we urge all parties to recommit to them unconditionally and to take steps to restore confidence in them. In particular, we urge the Government of Bahrain 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. We call on the Government 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. We also urge all parties to clearly and unequivocally repudiate violence. All parties involved in the National Dialogue should understand that this is a process that will require commitment and compromise by all.
Expanding the space for civil society enables a government and its citizens to seize the opportunities and address the challenges facing their nation, and provides legitimate avenues for peacefully channeling both aspirations and dissent. It is our hope that the Government and people of Bahrain will move quickly to ensure that Bahrain’s future is guided by their mutual respect for and engagement with each other.