The Need for a Modern Law of Associations

Human Rights Watch issued a detailed report regarding the restrictions on the establishment of associations in Bahrain. The report, entitled ‘Interfere, Restrict, and Control’ examined the draft law of associations as well as the current one. There are several points that should be highlighted:

First- it is important and beneficial for Bahrain to have a law of associations, that conforms to international standards and Bahrain’s international obligations under the agreements and conventions it has signed. The most important step is that the law should be modern, adheres to international standards and does not cause controversy inside and outside the country.

Second- Bahraini authorities can implement this law vigorously if it complies with international standards without fearing any objections or criticism. If the law is not amended, Bahraini civil societies will be forced to work in accordance with international standards and not the local law, and will be legally supported locally and abroad.

Third- whatever the level of restrictions imposed on political or civil societies by any law, the most it can achieve is a partial restrain of the natural development of Bahrain. It will also cause many social, political and security problems in the future.

Fourth- Bahrain cannot produce a law for itself with its own standards, and then wait for it to be accepted locally and internationally. Contrary to this, any such law would only cause problems with human rights organizations and UN bodies. It could also cause problems with the countries allied to Bahrain because all these parties depend on their evaluations of the political and human rights situation in any country on international standards only.

Fifth- we believe that a new law of Association should not be passed without the participation and the acceptance of the civil society as it was initially planned. Civil society should exert more effort before the passing of this law by working with the authorities and the legislators in order to convince them to amend it and bring it into conformity with international standards.

Finally- it is also necessary that the concerned ministries and Parliament should study the HRW report and respond to the points of concern it raised and the solutions it presented regardless of the official position towards the organization. Bahrain will be criticised again by all the countries and international human rights organizations if it fails to amend this law. Fortunately, there is still time for the amendment to take place especially now that Bahrain’s political, security and human rights situations are improving and the law should be designed for the future.