A senior official from the United States has been ordered to leave Bahrain after meeting with an opposition group in the country. According to Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry, Tom Malinowski, the assistant secretary of state for human rights, must cut short his visit and leave the country immediately. Mr. Malinowski is accused of violating diplomatic protocol by interfering in the country’s internal affairs.
Mr. Malinowski began what was supposed to be four-day trip to the country optimistic about the visit and the Bahraini authorities had been informed of Mr. Malinowski’s schedule. As a condition of his visit to the country, Mr. Malinowski was supposed to have a Foreign Ministry official in attendance at all of his meetings with the citizens and officials of Bahrain, including those held at the U.S. Embassy. In a statement, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that condition was a violation of international diplomatic protocol.
The reason for the ejection from the country appears to be a meeting held with the nation’s main Shiite opposition group. A member of the country’s largest opposition party al-Wefaq reported that Mr. Malinowski attended a reception at its headquarters. The reception attended by Mr. Malinowski was a weekly social event held by al-Wefaq during the holy month of Ramadan. The statement by the Foreign Ministry did not clarify which meeting led to the ejection of Mr. Malinowski from the country.
The report seemed to surprise the State Department. According to American officials, American diplomats had previously met with al-Wefaq members without incident. American officials have asked Bahrain to reconsider its decision, but that seems unlikely. Bahrain has been shaken by unrest since an uprising by a Shiite-led opposition movement in 2011. Confrontations between protesters and the state security’s services have become increasingly violent, leading the monarchy to crackdown on the movements of the opposition.
The Obama administration has tried to maintain a strong alliance with the Sunni monarchy of Bahrain despite concerns about human rights. A 2013 report by the State Department regarding human rights around the world cited many human rights abuses in Bahrain. Some of the abuses cited included the arrest and detention of protesters on vague charges, the torture of detained prisoners, and lack of due process in trials of political and human rights activists.