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Article Bahrain: High Court Orders Dissolution of Main Shi'ite Opposition Group

(July 22, 2016) On July 17, 2016, the High Civil Court of Manama, Bahrain ordered the dissolution of the Wefaq National Islamic Society. The Court’s ruling ordered the liquidation of the organization’s assets and froze all of its banks accounts. (High Court Dissolves al Wefaq, BAHRAIN NEWS AGENCY (July 7, 2016).) The Court rendered its decision after finding members of the Wefaq organization guilty of promoting extremism. The court stated that Wefaq does not respect the principle of the rule of law and does not adhere to the provisions of the law regulating and protecting the principles of coexistence, tolerance, and respect for others. The Court also argued that the organization fosters an atmosphere for the incubation of terrorism, extremism, and violence. Furthermore, it claimed that the Wefaq organization is funded by foreign groups and other countries aiming at creating chaos within Bahraini society. Accordingly, the Court authorized the Ministry of Finance to confiscate all monetary accounts of the organization in Bahraini banks. Finally, the Court accused the Wefaq organization of calling for the foreign interference in the national affairs of the country. (Bahrain Court Dissolves Main Shi’ite Opposition, REUTERS (July 17, 2016).)

Applicable Laws

Law 51 of 2012, amending Penal Code No.15 of 1976, establishes crimes such as the spreading of false news for the purpose of harming national security, promoting violence, and acts of terrorism. (Law 51 of 2012, 3073 AL JARIDAH AL RASMYIAH (Oct. 11, 2012) (in Arabic).) Title I describes crimes against national security, as established under Penal Code No. 15 of 1976, and also penalizes the offense of receiving money from a foreign entity in order to create chaos or harm public order and national security. (Royal Decree Promulgates Law No.15 of 1976, 1170 AL JARIDAH AL RASMYIAH (Apr. 8, 1976) (in Arabic).) Although the Penal Code does not call for the dissolution of the political organizations, Law 34 of 2014, amending article 23 of Law 26 of 2005 on Political Organizations, authorizes a court to dissolve an organization and freeze its assets and bank accounts if it violates the provisions of the Constitution. The court decision must be based on a request submitted to a civil court by the Ministry of Justice. (Law 34 of 2014, 3171 AL JARIDAH AL RASMYIAH (Aug. 28, 2014) (in Arabic).)


In June 2016, the Court of Appeal in Manama sentenced Sheikh Ali Salman, the General Secretary of the Al Wefaq, to nine years in prison after finding him guilty of insulting the Ministry of the Interior, promoting terrorism, and attempting to overthrow the political system by force. (Bahrain Ramps up Opposition Chief Ali Salman’s Sentence, AL JAZEERA (May 30, 2016).) Other members of the party were also sentenced to a period of imprisonment after being convicted of spreading false news. (Bahrain Court Orders Shia Opposition Group to Be Dissolved, GUARDIAN (July 17, 2016).)

In the same month, following the request of the Ministry of the Interior, the Bahraini authorities stripped the spiritual leader of the Wefaq National Islamic Society, Sheikh Issa Qassim, of his Bahraini citizenship and charged him with playing a vital role in establishing an environment of extremism among Bahraini citizens. (Id.)

Reaction to the Recent Decision

Human rights activists in Bahrain and abroad have denounced the Court decision. They claim that it violates the right to freedom of speech. The defense lawyers for the Wefaq also accused the Court of being biased after the judge prevented them from going back to the offices of the party to prepare their defense. (Id.) International organizations, such as Amnesty International and the European Parliament, have demanded that the Bahraini authorities free all political activists and drop all charges. (Bahrain’s Main Shia Opposition Bloc Dissolved by Court, RUSSIA TODAY (July 17, 2016).)

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