Bahraini parliament has approved a controversial bill preventing all members of dissolved opposition groups and organizations from running for elections, a fresh step by the small Persian Gulf island country in suppressing the dissent ahead of parliamentary polls this year.
Bahrain’s state news agency, BNA, reported on Sunday that the Consultative Council, the National Assembly’s upper house, passed the draft bill, according to which all leaders and members of political associations dissolved by the judicial system are prohibited from standing for elections.
The report added that the bill had been approved against these people “due to their serious violations of the constitution and laws of the kingdom.”
The bill has already secured its approval from the House of Representatives, the lower house of the National Assembly, but still needs to be signed by Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah to become law.
On July 17, 2016, the Bahraini High Administrative Court ordered the dissolution of the country’s main Shia opposition group, the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, and the seizure of its funds, accusing it of helping to foster violence and terrorism in Western-allied Bahrain, where the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is stationed.
The court ruling drew criticism from the United Nations, with then Secretary General Ban Ki-moon describing the dissolution as “the latest in a series of restrictions of the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and freedom of expression in Bahrain.” Al-Wefaq’s leader Sheikh Ali Salman, a senior Bahraini Shia cleric, has also been in prison on a nine-year jail sentence since late 2014.
On October 26 last year, Bahrain’s High Appeals Court also upheld a decision by the country’s Appeals Court to dissolve the National Democratic Action Society (Waad), some four months after the latter court banned the leftist party on “terror” charges.
Other opposition groups such as the Islamic Enlightenment Society (Tawiya), al-Risala Society, and the Islamic Action Society, commonly referred to as Amal Party, have already been dissolved by Manama over similar charges. All dissolved groups, however, have strongly rejected the allegations.
Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.
They are demanding that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.
Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.
Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.
On March 5, 2017, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide. Bahraini king ratified the constitutional amendment on April 3 last year.