Bahrain: New decrees ban dissent as further protests organized

August 7, 2013

Bahrain: New decrees ban dissent as further protests organized

Two new emergency decrees issued by the King of Bahrain Tuesday night, which include banning all protests, are a further shameful attempt to completely ban any form of dissent and freedom of expression in the country, Amnesty International said.

"Banning sit-ins, public gatherings and demonstrations in Bahrain’s capital and stipulating that parents could be jailed if their children repeatedly participate in demonstrations is outrageous, and violates international law," said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International.

"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 August 14."

One of the decrees makes new amendments to the 1973 law on public gatherings and demonstrations, which include the banning of demonstrations, sit-ins, marches and public gatherings in the capital Manama.

The 1976 juvenile law was also amended and now stipulates that if anyone under 16 years of age takes part in a demonstration, public gathering or sit-in, his or her parents would be warned in writing by the Ministry of Interior. If six months after the warning the juvenile was found in a new demonstration, his or her father could face jail, a fine or both.

The decrees are the latest in a series of measures by the Bahraini authorities to toughen punishments laid out in the 2006 anti-terrorism law, stifling dissent in the wake of increased protests.

Sunjeev Bery, Middle East and North Africa advocacy director for Amnesty International USA, said: "Through his latest decree, the King of Bahrain has now joined fellow U.S. military ally Saudi Arabia with a total ban on peaceful protests. With just one week to go before planned mass demonstrations in Bahrain, it is time for the Obama Administration to forcefully condemn its ally's behavior. The presence of the U.S. naval base in Bahrain should not serve as a diplomatic free pass for massive human rights violations in the country."

In recent weeks, the security forces have used shot-guns and tear gas against protesters and conducted mass arrests of protesters. Amnesty International has also received reports of torture and other ill-treatment of detained protesters.

In the early hours of July 29 at least 27 people, mostly youth, were arrested in the village of Dar Kulaib in west Bahrain, where clashes between security forces and protesters had taken place. Bloggers, photographers and others active in social media networks have been targeted for arrest in recent days.

Despite these measures, sporadic protests have continued with a new mass demonstration planned for August 14.