Sedition and Legal Accountability
The political crisis in Bahrain has created sedition in the country.
Sedition can be defined as the involvement of a large group in a
conflict, during which moral, religious and political responsibility
cannot be confined to a specific group. Based on historical and
modern experiences implementing the law at times of sedition becomes
a very difficult task. This is due to the fact that many people
involved and thus share the responsibility for their speeches, written
articles or inaction. In order to deal with the repercussions of
any sedition and defuse tension, decision–makers need to either
pardon everyone or limit punishment to those directly involved.
Many prominent officials believed that the initial demands raised
by the protesters were legitimate. Today we realised that some of
the protesters’ demands were unrealistic and against national consensus.
Also, extreme political rhetoric was used in airing these demands,
which insulted Government symbols, figures and institutions. This
extreme language gained supporters especially after exaggerated
information spread and the pictures of the victims were broadcasted
and circulated. Many people failed to distinguish between wise political
rhetoric and plausible demands and extreme rhetoric. It is surprising
that some of the protesters were the same persons who carried the
car of his Majesty the King in celebration of the reforms.
It is worth noting that during a sedition and tense political
atmosphere, many unbelievable things take place. Anyone familiar
with psychology knows this to be the case. Enforcing the law is
very important in order to regain calm and stability. Strict accountability
on the other hand, will involve tens of thousands of people, which
is difficult to do and will not help the country return to normal.
Many mistakes have been made by all political parties and the Government
needs to turn a blind eye to small breaches and emphasize stability
Not all Shia citizens wanted to overthrow the regime and those
that have called for overthrowing the regime now realise that they
had made a big mistake. Punishing everyone who was involved in the
sedition is impractical and will only complicate the situation and
incite political and sectarian conflict.
The Shia citizens are an important component of Bahraini social
fabric and are keen to protect their national identity and national
unity. It is wrong to view them in one colour because they represent
different political ideas. Cultural, political and religious diversity
exists in the Shia community and to stereotype is unfair and violates
It is not wrong to demand more freedoms because the reform project
was destined to produce new reforms and a desire for greater freedom.
The question is how this can be achieved and through what means
and mechanisms? Raising national slogans during the protests was
not wrong. The purpose was not to promote Shia demands. The demands
were made by political parties and each party bear responsibility
for its actions. The average citizen should not bear any responsibility
unless they were responsible for violence and vandalism.
All religions stress the fact that each person is responsible
for his or her own actions. This is something that all laws and
the international human rights instruments agree on. Using collective
punishment that humiliates and punishes citizens based on their
affiliation is wrong.
Unfortunately, many political figures, journalists and elites
have been dragged into the sectarian trap and social division. This
is what the King in his article in Washington Times warned against
as did the Crown Prince, in a recent speech. The use of sectarian
language is very damaging. It may serve its purpose for a short
period of time but is a double–edged sword. Sectarianism is a divisive
tool that destroys government institutions, weakens loyalty and
national identity, undermines the safety of the country, paves the
way for foreign interference and empowers religious figures against
the authority and sovereignty of the State.