File Photo: Bahraini lawmakers participate in a special session of parliament to discuss how to handle the uprising in the Gulf island kingdom, convened in Manama, Bahrain. (AP)
Bahrain has approved a constitutional change allowing military courts to try civilians, a move widely criticized by activists.
The island's 40-member Consultative Council, the upper house of the Bahraini parliament appointed by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, voted for the measure Sunday.
Their approval came less than two weeks after the 40-seat Council of Representatives, the parliament's elected lower house, passed it with little opposition.
Activists warn the amendment will allow an undeclared state of martial law on the island near Saudi Arabia that's home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
Loyalists of Bahrain's rulers call the change necessary to fight terrorism as the persistent low-level unrest that followed the 2011 demonstrations has escalated recently in tandem with the crackdown.