Symposium Criticizing the Associations Bill

On 25 November 2009, the Bahraini Human Rights Society and the Kawakibi Democracy Transition Centre jointly organized a seminar on the freedom of societies in Bahrain, during which participants discussed a bill which the Government had recently presented to the Parliament. The participants saw this bill as a setback from

Law No. 89 as it includes new restrictions, such as the random inspection of societies’ headquarters without previous notice. They also concluded that it was necessary to make new proposals in order to develop this bill, which is still under discussion in the House of Representatives. This seminar came in the context of a project conducted by Al Kawakibi Democracy Transition Centre to study the adherence of members participating in the Forum for the Future Project. Mr. Amin Ghali, member of the Centre, said that the seminar aimed at assessing the performance of societies and the adherence of governments to the commitments outlined in the Sea Island Declaration.

Salah Al Jorshi presented his assessment of civil society organizations in the Arab World, and noticed a decline in their contribution to the Forum for the Future, explaining that the reason for this decline was the objection of some Arab regimes. Al Jorshi also criticized the performance of these societies saying that there are approximately 300 thousand Arab associations, but their effectiveness is very minimal when compared to their counterparts in Asian countries. Abdulnabi Al Ekri and Zainab Al Drazi presented a research study regarding the bill, and said that some of its articles are inconsistent with the Constitution which guarantees freedoms, and added that the bill was based on the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

The study showed the extent of concern within civil society institutions who are subjected to bad treatment by the Ministry of Social Development, which has sweeping powers in dissolving the management of associations, as when the Ministry had administratively dissolved the management of the Nurses’ Association and placed it under its direct supervision. According to the study, the most dangerous phenomena facing civil society organizations is sectarian polarization, which has penetrated political and social life and instead of promoting citizenship and national unity, has become a factor in weakening national identity and promoting other affiliations.