BAHRAIN. PARLIAMENT OKAYS TOUGH ANTI-TERROR LAW
|The legislation must be ratified by King Hamad
July 22, 2006: Bahrain's appointed upper chamber approved a tough law to combat terrorism already passed by the elected parliament and that critics say "punishes suspects for their intentions."
The 40-member Majlis Al Shura, or consultative council, which is named by the king, approved the legislation almost unanimously within minutes, days after it was passed by the Gulf archipelago's elected 40-strong parliament by a 30-10 vote.
The legislation, which must be ratified by King Hamad, provides for the death penalty, jail terms reaching life imprisonment, and house arrest for acts of terror or the establishment of terrorist groups.
It defines terrorism as "the use, or threat of use, of force or any other illegitimate means ... to execute an individual or collective criminal venture with the aim of disturbing public order, endangering the kingdom's security, or harming national unity or the security of the international community."
Acts considered offenses under existing penal codes or other laws also come under the label of terrorism "if they are perpetrated for a terrorist goal."
The list of offenses punishable under the new law includes the establishment of organizations with the purpose of "seeking to obstruct the constitution or laws, or prevent a state institution from performing its task, or ... undermine national unity using terrorist means."
"Many of the provisions of this law are unconstitutional," said MP Farid Ghazi, one of the lawmakers who voted against the legislation.
"A person must not be punished for intentions, but for deeds ... This law would punish [suspects] for their intentions, and this is unconstitutional," he said.
The new law comes despite the fact that the constitutional court last month revoked a provision in the penal code in force since 1977 that provides for punishments on the basis of a suspect's intentions, Ghazi said.
Mohammed Al Sheikh, a Shia Islamist member of parliament, also decried the legislation for "giving authorities wide powers to detain any citizen and level charges on the basis of suspicion."
Punishment cannot be meted out on the basis of intentions, but should be administered only if there is an actual crime, he said.
But the assistant undersecretary for legal affairs at the interior ministry, Colonel Mohammed Abu Hamoud, dismissed such concerns, saying that the law would not punish people over their intentions.
"Intentions must be coupled with deeds" if anyone is to be penalized, he said. (Sources: Afp, 24/07/2006)