Bahrain asks court to disband Shi`ite groups

The 2 groups were accused of violating Constitution, "harming social peace".

Last Updated: Apr 15, 2011, 12:38 PM IST

Dubai: Bahrain has filed lawsuits to disband two Shi’ite opposition groups including the powerful Al-Wefaq party, state media said on Thursday, a month after Sunni rulers crushed Shi’ite-led protests.

"Bahrain`s Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs has filed a lawsuit to dissolve the Islamic Action Association and Al-Wefaq (the Islamic National Accord Association)," state news agency BNA reported.

The decision comes "due to the breaches of the kingdom`s laws and Constitution committed by both associations and for their activities that have negatively affected the civil peace and national unity," said the statement.

Both Shi’ite groups had also "incited disrespect for constitutional institutions," it added.

"The participation of political associations should remain within the national duty of focusing on and supporting efforts to strengthen national unity and protect the security, stability and sovereignty of the kingdom," said the ministry.

"This action deals with the two societies as legal entities. It is not against any individual and does not affect any MP’s right to sit in Parliament," a government statement later quoted Justice Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ali al-Khalifa as saying.

"Neither would a court decision to uphold the case prevent any members of these societies forming a new society under the proviso that the laws governing political societies are followed," he said.

Khalil al-Marzouk, one of 18 Al-Wefaq MPs who submitted their resignations to protest violence against demonstrators, said the government move would stifle political life in Bahrain and hamper the reform process.

"We think that this measure will restrain what remains of political action in Bahrain, and will not search reform process," Marzouk said.

"Since its inception, Al-Wefaq always acted within the constitutional and legal framework, and worked on reform from within the system," he said.

"Bahrain needs a political solution, and the pillar of this solution is Al-Wefaq, with its popular weight. If it is dissolved, how would this solution be possible, unless the authorities have taken a decision and do not want a political solution," Marzouk added.

An opposition movement that erupted February 14 calling for democratic reforms in Bahrain was curbed in a bloody government crackdown on demonstrators mid-March.

Saudi-led forces entered Bahrain last month, sparking a war of words between various Gulf Arab states and Iran, and freeing up Bahraini security forces to crush the protests.

Al-Wefaq was the main opposition group in Parliament, controlling almost half of the 40 seats before its MPs resigned.

The group has called for political reforms and for transforming Bahrain to a constitutional monarchy.

But its leaders, have never publicly called for the departure of the pro-Western Al-Khalifa dynasty, which has ruled Shi’ite-majority Bahrain since 1783, as radical Shi’ite groups and protesters have done.

The Islamic Action Association has also joined the protests in which Bahraini authorities said that 24 people were killed in the only Shi’ite-majority Gulf Arab state.

Although the protest movement on the streets was eradicated, the crackdown on dissent has continued.

The IAA is an offshoot of the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain, accused of having been involved in a 1981 coup attempt.

The archipelago state was plagued in the 1990s by a wave of Shi’ite-led unrest which has abated since reforms in 2001.

Rights group Amnesty International has said more than 400 activists, almost all Shi’ites, have now been detained, including prominent human rights worker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and his two sons-in-law arrested on Saturday.

About 800 people have been fired from both government and private sector jobs for responding to a call for a general strike in mid-March, Marzouk said.

Meanwhile, four detainees have died in prison, drawing international condemnation from the European Union, the United States and the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Bureau Report