Bahraini opposition condemns 'smokescreen' security recommendations

Nadeen Shaker , Thursday 1 Aug 2013

As Bahrain's parliament moves to confront 'violence and terrorism' with new penalties, the country's largest opposition group says only a national political settlement will work

Thousands of protesters with Bahraini flags take part in a pro-government march in the capital Manama February 18, 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

The opposition in Bahrain has fully denounced a set of 22 recommendations issued by Bahrain’s National Assembly to curb "all forms of violence and terrorism."

The loyalist-dominated parliament met in an extraordinary session 25 July to address what they perceive as an upsurge in terror acts and threats in the energy-rich emirate.

The recommendations urged “applying all punitive laws” and penalties related to committing acts of terrorism, the harshest of which is stripping instigators of their citizenship. Parliament also granted security bodies “all required and appropriate powers” such as cracking down on political associations inciting violence, and punishing social media users.

Sit-ins, rallies and gatherings would also be banned in the capital Manama.

The latter is a swipe at the opposition’s calls for peaceful protest on Bahrain’s independence day, 14 August, which security police warned it would respond to harshly.

Ali Alaswad, a resigned MP for Al-Wefaq Society, the largest opposition group in Bahrain, said that terrorism is used “as a smokescreen and pretext to crackdown on the opposition,” to impede negotiations, scupper joint plans between the moderate opposition and reformists in the ruling Al-Khalifa family, and repress the pro-democracy movement. 

Al-Wefaq issued a statement, highlighting an eight-step roadmap for the country — one vying for a political, rather than a security, solution.

“The regime recruited all the country’s capabilities and institutions in the service of the security apparatus […] The security route adopted by the regime must be stopped and exchanged for a political solution based on partnership,” the statement said.

Similarly, Alaswad thinks the country “cannot repress its way out of crisis,” adding that only a political settlement can salvage the situation.

The security-based orientation of the current government might pull the country “into further chaos, rather than to concede reforms,” says Alaswad.

Recommendation 16 puts forth that “basic liberties, particularly freedom of opinion, should be affected so as to strike a balance between law enforcement and human rights protection.”

Bahrain has been struck by a wave of shootings and bombings that target police stations and patrols in Shia villages, according to AFP.

The latest was on 17 July when a car bomb exploded near a royal court south of Manama.

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