October 31, 2012 - 18:26 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Bahrain must lift its total ban on opposition protests, which violates the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, rights group Amnesty International said on Wednesday, Oct 31, according to Reuters.
Bahrain, a U.S. ally which hosts the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, has been in political turmoil since pro-democracy protests led by its Shi'ite Muslim majority erupted last year and were put down by the island's Sunni Muslim rulers.
On Tuesday, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashed bin Abdullah al-Khalifa said the Gulf Arab kingdom had banned all rallies and gatherings to ensure public safety and prevent violence.
He said the move was necessary because violence accompanying marches and gatherings had disrupted traffic, affected trade and the economy and damaged private property.
London-based Amnesty said the measure nullified the rights to freedom of association, expression and assembly.
Bahrain has banned a series of protests organized by Wefaq in the past few months. A senior official said in July that the government had no plans to ban rallies outright, but wanted to ensure they did not turn violent.
Since April the authorities have stepped up efforts to crack down on unrest. Activists cite an increased use of shotgun pellets, whose use officials have declined to confirm or deny.
Activists have been sentenced to jail for organizing or taking part in unlicensed anti-government protests.