Bahrain

Bahrain must ensure freedom of speech, assembly: UN official

A United Nations official has called on the Bahraini regime to guarantee freedom of expression and assembly in the island country amid Manama’s severe crackdown on religious figures and human rights activists.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Adama Dieng, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special adviser for the prevention of genocide, said Bahrain and the Persian Gulf region are facing “a critical moment.”

Dieng further warned that “repression will not eliminate people’s grievances; it will only increase them.”

He also voiced concern about the kingdom’s recent decision to strip prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, of his citizenship.

On Monday, Manama revoked the nationality of the clergyman, with Bahrain’s Interior Ministry accusing him of seeking the “creation of a sectarian environment” through his connections with foreign powers.

The move has raised fears of further unrest in the tiny Persian Gulf country which is already the scene of regular anti-regime demonstrations.

Elsewhere in his statement, the UN official urged the Al Khalifah regime to de-escalate the situation, demanding all Bahraini and regional figures “to exercise restraint and to take all possible measures to prevent the further increase of tensions.”

The latest move by the Bahraini regime against Sheikh Qassim came less than a week after the Justice Ministry suspended all activities of al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the main opposition group in the country.

The kingdom also dissolved two other opposition groups, namely al-Tawiya and al-Risala Islamic associations.

Bahrain, a close ally of the US in the Persian Gulf region, has seen a wave of anti-government protests since mid-February 2011.

The Al Khalifah regime is engaged in a harsh crackdown on dissent and widespread discrimination against the country’s Shia majority. Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured or arrested in the island state.

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