King issues new decrees banning protests and introducing penalties for parents

  • 0
Demonstration in Manama Tuesday night in defiance of protest ban

On August 6th, King Hamad continued the implementation of the National Assembly recommendations by issuing two new decrees. Ahmed Ali writes about them for Bahrain Watch:
The first Decree promulgated by the King drastically alters Bahrain’s 1973 public gathering law by imposing sweeping limitations on freedom of expression.  In addition to the previous prohibition imposed in Article 11 of the 1973 law, which contains a ban on “marches, demonstrations or sit-ins before sunrise or after sunset” without special governmental authorization, the decree adds a ban on all “demonstrations, marches, rallies, or sit-ins in the capital city of Manama,” unless “special permission” is obtained from the head of Public Security.  The new ban also covers marches and gatherings that are being held at or “near” hospitals, airports, shopping malls, or other “places of security”. The latter category has been left open for the Interior Ministry to determine. The use of vehicles in any form of gathering has also been prohibited in an apparent bid to limit the mobilization of protesters.
Secondly, there has been an amendment to Decree 17 of 1976 in regards to juveniles.  The new provision holds parents legally responsible if any of their children who is under 16 participates in a demonstration, public gathering, or sit-in.  Parents will face a warning from the Interior Ministry on the first offence, and can be jailed for up to one year, fined 2000BD, or both, on a second offence.  The law states that these measures are intended to monitor and control the child’s behaviour in the future’.  This decree goes further than the National Assembly’s recommendation, which was to target those who involve children in acts of violence.
It is important to recognise that such prohibitions and sanctions have always been imposed in Bahrain.  However, these latest measures signal a drastic shift from practical to legal reprisals against civil society.  A de-facto ban on protests in Bahrain’s capital has been imposed since 2011, as the Government has declined to issue licenses for these protests and cracks down heavily on any attempted protests there.  Protesters have been discouraged from using their vehicles at rallies, through security forces regularly vandalizing cars found near protest sites.

Such a trend is evident in the remainder of the 22 recommendations, all of which have been accepted by the King.  The recommendations include withdrawing citizenship from terrorism convicts, more closely monitoring online social media activity, and declaring a state of emergency.  All of these techniques have previously been used, informally, to crack down on dissent.  The difference now is that these proposals stand to be entrenched in law, in public defiance of Bahrain’s international obligations. Other worrying new proposals include severe punishments for instigating a “terrorist crime” — the term is not defined — reprisals against political associations, sweeping new powers for security forces, changes to the educational system and use of media networks for propaganda, and revoking “Royal Pardons” for those targeted by the new laws.  Previous Decrees have been issued to implement some of these measures, though not all are yet implemented in law.
Read full post, which includes English translation of the amendments.

Amnesty International described the new legislation as "outrageous" and a violation of international law. Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Director Phillip Luther said: "Authorities in Bahrain have, for years, abused existing legislation to suppress any form of dissent, but these new measures are taking their disregard for human rights to a completely new level. We fear that these draconian measures will be used in an attempt to legitimize state violence as new protests are being planned for 14 August.”

No comments: