The Minister of Interior: Violence is Unjustifiable in Light of Freedom of Expression

In an interview with Al Ayyam newspaper on 22 March 2009, Bahrain’s Minister of Interior refused demands for the amendment of the Protest and Assembly Law, saying that all restrictions included in the law achieve the required margin of freedom, and described it as a modern law which complies with international standards. The Minister noted that the total number of protests and demonstrations that took place in the country is 115 for the year 2008. This number excludes unauthorized protests and necessary procedures have been taken to prevent these, he said.

The Minister denied the existence of any breaches and said that respect of human rights was the Ministry’s policy, and that all procedures undertaken are in accordance with legal restrictions: ‘the procedures are clear, the trials are public and our doors are open to receive and investigate any complaints’. He added that violence on the streets is committed by a small group of outlaws, stressing that ‘there is no justification for violence in light of the freedom guaranteed in this country’. The Minister reiterated the official position that ‘there are no political prisoners or prisoners of conscience, rather there are detainees accused on criminal charges. Many have taken advantage of the freedom of expression in the Kingdom, guaranteed by the Constitution, and are unchecked in their statements and speeches, but when this becomes a violation of the law, deterrent legal procedures are required’.