Bahrain Government begins to implement new recommendations

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At an emergency meeting of the National Assembly on Sunday 28th July, members made a series of recommendations relating to national security. The recommendations were quickly condemned by local and international NGOs as violating human rights and giving legal cover to further repression.

The Bahrain government wasted little time in starting to implement them. John Horne writes:
On July 29th, King Hamad wrote to the Prime Minister, reportedly calling for “essential speedy implementation of these recommendations”. The Prime Minister subsequently directed “all ministries and concerned departments” start working on their implementation. He then chaired an extraordinary session of the Cabinet, who claimed that the recommendations would “inaugurate a new era of security, stability and safety in Bahrain.” In contrast, the BBC’s Bill Law wrote: “The recommendations if implemented in full would effectively return the country to a state of martial law.”

On July 31st, King Hamad issued two new royal decrees, bringing into legislation even harsher sentences and punishments, including the revocation of citizenship as a penalty for a range of offences. The decrees amended the 2006 law on the “Protection of the Community Against Terrorist Acts” in the following ways:

  • Article 10 was amended to increase the minimum punishment to 10 years for “whomever carries out a bombing or attempts to carry out a bombing for terrorism purposes”. If “the bombing/explosion resulted in a death or injury” the punishment will be “execution or life imprisonment”.

  • Article 10 was also amended to make fake bombs illegal. It now reads: “Imprisonment shall be the punishment of whoever puts or carries in public or private places for the same reason prototypes or models that look like or resemble explosives or firecrackers.”
  • Article 24 was amended to vastly expand the revocation of citizenship as a punishment for certain offences. This now makes it possible for authorities to render stateless anyone accused of:

  1. “each one who runs an organization, society, institution or association established according to the law and exploits his management thereof to advocate the commission of any of the crimes provided for in this Law” (Article 9)
  2. “everyone who solicits any society, association, organization, group or gang that carries out a terrorist activity [...] or communicates therewith or with any person who acts to serve the interest of any such groups” (Article 12)
  3. “everyone who incites another to commit a crime for the implementation of a terrorist objective even though his acts shall be of no effect” (Article 17)

The 1956 law on charity fundraising was also amended to give the public prosecution power to order to“view and obtain any data or information of accounts, deposits, or safes with banks or other [entities] to reveal the truth of crimes stated in this law.” The law was also amended to make any fundraising by organisations subject to authorization by the relevant government ministry at least two months prior to the activity. The “request should include the way, period, place and purpose of the fundraising”. Government bodies are exempt from these new amendments.

Also on July 31st, the Ministry of State for Communication Affairs announced that it had begun implementing the National Assembly recommendations. Bahrain state media reported that the Ministry intended “to enforce legal procedures against anyone who misuses social networking systems and tampers with Bahrain’s security and stability”. The Ministry also announced the creation of a hotline, “for the people in Bahrain to report any websites or accounts inciting violence and terror acts, jeopardising people’s life and public interests and targeting national unity and civic peace”. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) stated that “it appears that the Ministry is merely calling for another ‘name and shame’ campaign similar to the one started in 2011 which targeted pro-democracy activists.“ The Ministry’s announcement came on the same day that Bahrain Watch released an extensive report documenting the “Twitter army” that has been unleashed to silence online dissent.

Continued implementation of the National Assembly recommendations is expected over the coming days.

Further reading:

New National Assembly recommendations could return Bahrain to “martial law”

Bahrain Center for Human Rights: Light-Speed Amendments Made to Implement Anti-Freedoms Recommendations

John Horne: Pre-emptive Crackdown in Bahrain against planned Tamarrod protests

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