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25 July 2006

The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin, made the following statement today:

“I urge the executive and legislative branches of government in Bahrain to reconsider the new counter-terrorism bill approved by the Appointees Chamber in a Special Session of Parliament on 22 July 2006 and to allow for further debate and additional amendments due to concerns that the implementation of this law could have a negative impact on human rights in the country.”

The bill, titled ‘Protecting Society from Terrorists Acts’, is awaiting ratification by the Head of State before becoming law. The Special Rapporteur wrote to the Government in March and June 2006, when this bill was before Parliament, and identified some issues of concern regarding the proposed legislation.

“One of the main concerns is the overly broad definition of terrorism which is seen to be at variance with the principle of legality enshrined in several human rights instruments, including Article 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which represents a universal standard also in respect of countries that have not yet ratified the Covenant.”

Due to the broad definition of terrorism and other vague terms, a number of human rights such as freedom of association and assembly and freedom of speech risk being subject to excessive limitations such that the legislation might allow for severe or disproportionate restrictions on peaceful demonstrations by civil society. Also, the offence of incitement to terrorism fails to establish a clear and foreseeable threshold for criminalization. Further, the principle of due process may be denied due to the excessive powers of the Public Prosecutor regarding detention without judicial review.

“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. As a member of the newly constituted UN Human Rights Council, it is an opportune time for Bahrain to reflect international human rights standards in its national legislation."