Draft Law of Bahrain on counter-terrorism

Presented by the Government of Bahrain to the house of deputy as urgent issue according to article 95 of the code of The House of Deputies (non official translation)- English [2]

UN expert: Bahrain terror bill is not in line with international human rights law

25 July 2006 –An independent United Nations human rights expert today urged Bahrain’s Government to amend a new counter-terrorism bill, expressing concern that the law could harm human rights in the country and would be “particularly troubling” as the Kingdom is a member of the newly constituted UN Human Rights Council. The bill, titled “Protecting Society from Terrorists Acts,” is awaiting ratification by the Head of State before becoming law, but the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin, called for the legislative and executive branches to “reconsider.” “While fully conscious of the fact that States’ obligation to protect and promote human rights requires them to take effective measures to combat terrorism, I encourage the executive and legislative branches of Government to make amendments to this bill to bring it in line with international human rights law. “Disregarding concerns based on international human rights standards would be particularly troubling in the case of a country that is a member of the newly constituted UN Human Rights Council.” The Special Rapporteur wrote to the Government in March and again last month, when this bill was before Parliament, identifying some issues of concern regarding the proposed legislation and he also listed these four broad areas in today’s statement. He said he was concerned that: - the definition of terrorism is overly broad since there is no requirement of specific aim to commit a terrorist act and some acts are deemed to be “terrorist” without the intention of causing death or serious bodily injury – thus this definition goes against several human rights instruments; - restrictions on freedom of association and assembly would allow the criminalization of peaceful demonstrations by civil society; - excessive limitations are being placed on freedom of speech due to the use of broad and vague terms regarding the offence of incitement to terrorism since there is not a clear threshold for criminalization established; - rights to due process would be denied because of the excessive powers of the Public Prosecutor regarding detention without judicial review. Mr. Scheinin and other Special Rapporteurs are independent, unpaid experts with a mandate from the Human Rights Council. [3]

 

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Bahrain: Counter-terrorism bill threatens human rights

27 July 2006-Amnesty International is calling on the Bahrain government to reconsider its new counter-terrorism bill. As it stands now, the new bill undermines human rights protection in the country. The Bill, entitled ‘Protecting Society from Terrorist Acts’, was approved by both the House of Representatives (Parliament) and the appointed Shura (Consultative) Council on 16 July and 22 July 2006 respectively. It has now been referred to His Majesty Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa AlKhalifa, the King of Bahrain, for final ratification. The UN Committee against Torture (CAT) and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism have expressed concern that the Bill poses risks to the peaceful exercise of human rights. Amnesty International strongly urges the King to initiate a thorough reconsideration of the new Bill, taking into account the following observations: The Bill’s definition of terrorist crimes is too broad Amnesty International is concerned that some of the articles of the Bill define terrorism without sufficient precision. This undermines the principle of legality (which requires that criminal law be formulated sufficiently clearly and precisely to allow individuals to know what constitutes a crime) and risks criminalizing the peaceful exercise of the freedoms of expression, assembly and association. Article 1, for example, includes ‘threatening national unity’ within the prohibited aims of a terrorist act. As noted on 25 July 2006 by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, the Bill defines terrorism without reference to a specific intention to cause death or serious injury. For example, Article 6 of the Bill makes it a crime to provide accommodation or subsistence to persons who are later convicted of terrorist crimes, without a requirement that the individuals providing accommodation or subsistence to such persons themselves intended to cause death or serious injury or to further terrorist ends. The Bill restricts freedom of association and assembly Article 6 fails adequately to define what constitutes a terrorist association or organization and instead implies that any political organization opposed to the Bahraini Constitution is a terrorist body. It also vaguely defines a terrorist organization as one which aims to 'prevent any of the State enterprises or public authorities from exercising their duty' and to 'harm the national unity'. This may place restrictions on the activities of political opposition and even human rights defenders. While Article 6 provides that those assisting terrorist groups or joining them will only be penalized if they ‘knew’ of the organizations’ terrorist aims, if terrorist aims are not adequately defined, this provision would not offer a sufficient safeguard against politically- motivated trials and unsafe convictions. The Bill restricts freedom of expression Article 11 criminalizes the 'promotion' of terrorist acts and the possession of documents containing such promotional material. In light of the broad definition of terrorist acts in the Bill, this provision restricts the right to freedom of expression guaranteed in international law, which includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information of all kinds. The Bill grants the Public Prosecutor excessive discretion and heightens the risk of torture or ill-treatment, and arbitrary detention. Article 27 allows for extensive detention before charge without judicial review. It only demands that the public prosecutor reviews the detention of any individual held for more than five days if the arresting authorities seek to extend the detention period. This can be for another 10 days. The public prosecutor is not a judicial authority and lacks the requisite independence to be a check against arbitrary detention. Furthermore, Article 28 of the Bill allows the security services to ask for extension of pre-charge detention (as specified in Article 27) on the basis of secret evidence which the detainee has no access to and cannot challenge. A maximum period of 15 days' detention without judicial review is a violation of the right to liberty and security of the person. It also places the detainee at a heightened risk of torture or ill-treatment. The issue of the death penalty and other punishments in the Bill Amnesty International is concerned that the Bill empowers the courts to impose the death penalty and fails to provide essential procedural safeguards for people facing a possible death sentence. The organization believes that the death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Furthermore, Amnesty International finds the increases in punishment as stipulated in Article 3 problematic given the broad definition of the offences in the Bill. As a member of the new Human Rights Council, it is particularly important that the Kingdom of Bahrain uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights and reflect these standards in its national legislation. Amnesty International therefore urges the Bahraini authorities to conduct a full review of the counter-terrorism Bill and bring it into line with international human rights law standards. [4]

Bahrain - ICJ urges King not to promulgate new counter-terrorism law

27th July 2006 The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) today urged the King of Bahrain in a letter not to promulgate a law on counter-terrorism that risks creating a legal framework prone to abuse. In the letter the ICJ expressed particular concern about the scope of new offences and definitions and the exclusion of judicial scrutiny over arrest and detention, which increase considerably the risk of torture and other human rights violations. "The new law on combating terrorism introduces overly broad and vague definitions of terrorism and a number of other crimes, including the association with, the promotion and approval of terrorism. These open-ended provisions are the kind of laws that lend for abuse and that would allow the stifling of legitimate political and social dissent," said Gerald Staberock, Director of ICJ's Global Security and Rule of Law Programme of the ICJ. The ICJ is also concerned that the law would transfer authority usually vested in the Bahraini judiciary to a public prosecutor for arrest warrants for a period of up to 90 days and would equally allow for extended periods of police custody without any independent review for 14 days, contrary to the obligation under international law to be brought promptly before a judge or a judicial authority. "The exclusion of judicial safeguards in the Bahraini law carries a serious and foreseeable risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment", said Mr Staberock. "It will reverse some of the recent reforms undertaken by Bahrain and runs counter the conclusions of the UN Committee Against Torture, which had urged Bahrain to bring its counter-terrorism law into compliance with the Convention Against Torture", he continued. The ICJ therefore strongly urges the authorities to reconsider the adoption of the law and to ensure that it fully complies with Bahrain's international obligations, and in particular the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The ICJ has followed with concern the draft Law since March 2005 when the Government introduced it before the legislature. When Bahrain presented its report under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in May 2005, the ICJ submitted its detailed concerns to the Committee against Torture, drawing its attention to the provisions that, if adopted, would have fallen short of the provisions of the Convention. At that time, the Committee had called on Bahrain to ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism, including the draft law, fully respects the applicable rules of international human rights law. However, Parliament recently adopted the draft without addressing the issues raised by the Committee and by the ICJ. While the organization welcomes the reduction of sentences and the decrease in the number of offences for which the death penalty is applicable, it notes that fundamental issues such as the broad definition of terrorism, as well as the excessive powers of non-judicial entities in the arrest and detention remain unaddressed. The ICJ has urged the King of Bahrain, Shaikh Hamad bin 'Issa Al Khalifa, not to promulgate the law and instead order a full review of its provisions to ensure that they are fully compatible with international norms, in particular the provisions of the Convention against Torture. [5]

HRW: Bahrain Counter-Terrorism Measures

April 6, 2008- On August 12, 2006, Shaikh Hamad signed into law the “Protecting Society from Terrorist Acts” bill. The UN special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism had earlier urged the king to seek amendments to the bill passed by the legislature, expressing concern that it contained an excessively broad definition of terrorism and terrorist acts. Article 1 prohibits any act that would “damage national unity” or “obstruct public authorities from performing their duties.” Article 6 prescribes the death penalty for acts that “disrupt the provisions of the Constitution or laws, or prevent state enterprises or public authorities from exercising their duties.” The law also allows for extended periods of detention without charge or judicial review, heightening the risk of arbitrary detention and torture or inhumane treatment during detention.

Front Line Defenders:Concern over Bahrain’s new anti terror bill

Front Line is concerned that the broad and vague definitions of terrorist acts contained within the bill may be used to restrict the activities of human rights defenders, in relation to the rights of freedom of association, expression and assembly. Article 1 of the bill defines a prohibited terrorist act as including any act that threatens “national unity”. Front Line believes that such a broad definition of what constitutes a terrorist act may result in the restriction of the legitimate peaceful activities of human rights defenders in Bahrain.

In particular, Article 6 of the Bill defines a terrorist association or organization as being one, which aims to “prevent any of the State enterprises or public authorities from exercising their duty” and to harm “the national unity”. This definition may be used to restrict the activities of human rights defenders who criticize the Bahraini authorities in relation to human rights issues.

Front Line is also concerned about Article 11 of the Bill, which makes it a criminal offence to promote terrorist acts and to possess documents containing such promotional material. As the definition of terrorism in the Bill is so vague, Front Line believes that this Article may prevent human rights defenders from defending the right to freedom of expression and opinion and that this would be contrary to Article 6 of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.