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Rights group: Bahrain has no room for dissent

June 20, 2013 at 9:52 AM   |   Comments

BRUSSELS, June 20 (UPI) -- Human Rights Watch published an 87-page report Thursday accusing Bahrain of enacting legislation restricting the activities of its opponents.

"Bahrain claims to be on a path to political reform, but it is heading altogether in the wrong direction," HRW Deputy Middle East Director Joe Stork said in a statement Thursday from Brussels.

He called on European foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to press Bahrain on political reforms when she meets with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council next week in Manama.

Stork's organization said Bahraini authorities have made it so there is little room for dissent in the country by enacting restrictive laws and abusive policies.

The report said there are policies in place to "stifle civic and political groups" operating in Bahrain. Some laws make it so the government can take over or dissolve "more or less at will" civic organizations viewed as critical of the government or its general policies.

"The government claims that these groups have violated Bahraini laws, but it's the government that is violating Bahrain's international legal obligations with unjust laws and repressive policies," Stork said.

Bahrain says it is committed to reforms spelled out by an independent commission of inquiry investigating the government's crackdown on dissenters in 2011. The official Bahrain News Agency reported a national political dialogue session will will recess for the holy month of Ramadan, which starts June 26.

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