Bahrain’s top-down reforms, initiated by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa in 2001, were a welcome respite for a population weary of the violence and state repression that characterised much of the preceding decade. King Hamad’s relatively benign treatment of CSOs and his tolerance for a wider degree of freedom of expression has won international praise, most effusively from the United States.
The lack of legislative and judicial reform however, means that Bahrain’s political societies, CSOs, journalists and trade unions continue to operate under flawed and inconsistently applied legislation. Restrictive legislation such as the associations’ law, public gatherings law and the legislation governing trade unions and the media urgently require amendment to concretely secure the rights which Bahrain is required to observe under its international obligations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
As the 10th year of King Hamad’s reign approaches, in this working paper, Ed Burke argues that Bahrain has reached an impasse in its reform process.