MP's Response to 'an Arbitrary Directive'

MP Abdul Hussain Al-Mitghawi has responded to a directive issued by Sheikh Ahmad bin Attiatullah Al-Khalifa, Minister of the Cabinet Affairs, in which workers in the public sector are banned from participating in (unauthorized) protests and demonstrations, and threatens them, among other punishments with potentially losing their jobs. Al-Mitghawi commented that the directive is 'unconstitutional, goes against the National Action Charter, and limits freedoms…it is also in contradiction with international agreements and conventions, which according to article 37 of the Bahraini Constitution become part of the local law when they are approved and published in the Official Gazette (this includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Labour Agreements and article 21 of the International Covenant [on Civil and Political Rights])'.

Al-Mitghawi stressed that the directive opposes the separation of authorities as stated in article 32 of the Constitution, as it bypasses both legislative and judicial authorities. The Constitution also states in article 20 that an accused is innocent until proven guilty and has the right to a fair and just trial; he added that article 65 of the Civil Service Law prohibits the implementation of punishments until trials of the accused are completed.

Al-Mitghawi also believes that the language used in the issued directive is too vague which allows for widely different interpretations, threatens the dignity and stability of the civil worker, instils paranoia and fear and has a negative effect on the work environment and its productivity in general.

The directive had been discussed in the Parliament, media and civil society organisations, and the government had clarified its position by saying it has no intention to sack anyone as long as their participation in protests and demonstrations is within the confines of the law, and that the directive only applies to participation in violent and illegal protests.

It is worth mentioning that a protest was organised by opposition political societies on 30 January 2009 where around 30,000 persons took the streets to denounce what they called 'political naturalization' and no problems occurred due to the fact that the protest was authorized and peaceful.