Bahrain Embassy Adviser in London Says Gov’t to Take Further Steps
2019-05-02 - 8:05 p
Bahrain Mirror: A human rights adviser to the Embassy of Bahrain in London, Hasan Shafaei, said that "more good news was coming," referring to new steps that may be taken by the Bahraini government with regards to rights, reported author Bill Law, which comes following the decision to restore the citizenships of 551 Bahrainis which were withdrawn by judicial rulings.
In an article published on Wednesday (May 1, 2019) entitled, Bahrain: King Hamad Moves on Reconciliation Bid, Bill Law said that Hasan Shafaei, an official at the Bahraini Embassy in London and a former founding member of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, told him on April 26 that there were several recent meetings between the prime minister and a senior religious leader of the Shia community, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ghurifi, adding that those meetings had the full approval of the ailing Ayatollah Isa Qassim, the highest religious authority for Bahraini Shias.
Bill noted however that Sheikh Qassim was not among those who had his citizenship restored by the king after having it revoked in 2016.
As part of what he considered to be a reconciliation process, the author predicted that it could include the release of political prisoners, including Rajab.
He further highlighted that Shafaei also pointed to a new alternative sentencing law passed last year that includes the imposition of community service sentences, house arrest, electronic tagging and attending training and rehabilitation programs. Although it was not a point Shafaei made, the new law has the virtue of helping to deal with serious overcrowding and the consequent poor conditions faced by inmates at Jau Prison.
He went on to say that the citizenship restoration decree should be seen as King Hamad's signal that now is the time to move forward to dialogue. Significantly, included in the 551 were 138 names of individuals who had been stripped of their citizenship and sentenced to between three years and life in a mass trial just a few days earlier, on April 16. "Though the prison sentences stand, King Hamad could not have stated more clearly that citizenship stripping should not be used by the courts as punishment. It is a step that will not have pleased some within the ruling family, but it is as strong an indication as any that the cycle of repression could end and an agenda of reconciliation begin."
Bill Law also said that the decision to restore the citizenships of 551 individuals may be a first step in what remains a long and difficult road toward dialogue and reconciliation, stressing that Bahrain has been wracked by more than eight years of civil unrest that has severely damaged the kingdom's economy, seen thousands of protesters jailed and nearly 1,000 stripped of their citizenship.
For his part, Ali Alaswad, a senior al-Wefaq politician, now in exile in London, when told of Shafaei's comments, played down the significance of both the meetings with the prime minister and the restoration of citizenship. Bill Law quoted him as saying: "[King Hamad] wants us to say thank you when their citizenship was taken for no reason." Alaswad told him that there are 4,500 political prisoners in detention, adding "we will not be happy till they are back home."
At the same time, though, Alaswad signaled there is room for some optimism. Though al-Wefaq is not willing to enter into a formal dialogue with the government simply on the basis of the king's citizenship decision, that could change. "Release some political prisoners and we are ready to reconsider. A prisoner release is a good opportunity for dialogue," he said.
The author further stated that should the king follow through on what Hasan Shafaei has called "good news" and release some of the prisoners over the Islamic month of Ramadan, the arduous task of building trust and finding common ground can begin. "It will be a sign for all Bahrainis that they can dare to hope there is an end to an awful period in their history." He also considered that it would be useful, too, to restore Sheikh Isa Qassem's nationality. "Finally, should the release of prisoners include Nabeel Rajab, an internationally-recognized human rights voice, King Hamad will have signaled to the world that he is serious about ending the cycle of repression."
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