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Bahrain: King expands grounds for withdrawal of citizenship

By EUDO-CITIZENSHIP expert Gianluca Parolin

The King of Bahrain, Hamad b. Issa Al Khalifa (1999-present), has expanded the grounds for withdrawal of Bahraini citizenship by Law-Decree on 31 July 2013.  The list of grounds for withdrawal in the 1963 Citizenship Law already included: (1) service in a foreign army, (2) help to or service for an enemy country, and (3) endangering State security (art. 10).

The Law-Decree nr. 20 of 31 July 2013[1] does not amend the Citizenship Law, but provides for the withdrawal of citizenship as a further punishment in case of violation of the 2006 Anti-Terrorism Act (artt. 5-9, 12, and 17 of Law nr. 58 of 12 August 2006 on the Protection of Society from Terrorist Acts).[2] Withdrawal is effective only after ratification by the King (art. 24-bis(2)).

Citizenship will now be withdrawn from the Bahraini found guilty of causing a disaster in public transportation or hijacking public transportation (art. 5), creating a group calling for the suspension of the constitution, or the laws, or preventing public institutions or state authorities from performing their activities, or violating a citizen’s individual freedom or other rights and freedoms, or endangering national unity (employing terrorism as a medium, art. 6(1)), being an accessory to one such group by providing any form of assistance in terms of logistics, funds, or simply intelligence (art. 6(2)), or simply being a member thereof (art. 6(3)), or forcing someone to become a member (art. 7), or training or being trained in the use of arms for terrorist purposes (art. 8), or calling for any such activities while serving in the direction of any group, association or body legally established (art. 9), or getting involved or providing intelligence to a foreign-based group plotting terrorist activities in the country against domestic of foreign interests or abroad against Bahraini interests (art. 12), inciting someone to pursue a terrorist activity, even if with no consequence (art. 17).

The adoption of the Law-Decree comes in the context of a long-standing confrontation between the government and the opposition on the attempt to change the demographic balance of Bahrain. Based on personal allegations and speculations on census figures[3], the opposition claims that in the last fifteen years the government has pursued a reckless plan to hand out tens of thousands of passports (and voting rights) to individuals perceived as loyal (allied members of al-Dawsari kin group, or foreign Sunni workforce). More recently, state autorities have started to withdraw Bahraini citizenship from individuals perceived as disloyal (including two former MPs in November 2012).[4] Future withdrawals based on violations of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 do not seem unlikely, given the breadth of the violations, and the practice of pressing charges on the basis of the 2006 Act in the framwork of the Bahraini uprising (now in its third year).[5]


[1] Text of the 2013 Law-Decree [in Arabic] available on the State News Agency at: http://www.bna.bh/portal/news/573609 [accessed 2 August 2013].

[2] Text of the 2006 Act [in Arabic] available at: http://www.legalaffairs.gov.bh/LegislationSearchDetails.aspx?id=2125 [accessed 2 August 2013].

[3] See footnotes 15-18 of Freedom House, Countries at the Crossroads 2012: Bahrain, 20 September 2012, available at http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/countries-crossroads/2012/bahrain [accessed 2 August 2013].

[5] The most widely known (and condemned) case is that of the ‘Bahrain Thirteen’. The case went through the Bahraini courts (both military and civilian), and the Court of Cassation eventually upheld the sentences in early 2013.  See: http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/01/07/bahrain-highest-court-upholds-grossly-unfair-convictions [accessed 2 August 2013].