Gov't of Bahrain Announces Launching Open Prisons Program, Says it will Expand "Alternative Penal Code"

2022-02-01 - 8:52 م

Bahrain Mirror: The government of Bahrain has announced a series of measures aimed at expanding alternative penalties in parallel with the start of the open prisons program, with the aim of containing human rights criticism, which has long been a problem for the kingdom and has embarrassed it in front of the international community.

The new measures were announced during a meeting between Bahrain's Crown Prince, Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Interior Minister Rashid Abdullah Al Khalifa, and in the presence of Finance and National Economy Minister Salman Khalifa Al Khalifa. 

The Crown Prince called for "the implementation of the open prisons program in the coming months", and stressed that "these programs come in the context of developing the legislative system."

The measures come a few months after King Hamad bin Isa issued a decree implementing the Alternative Penal Code and dropping the half-term requirement, which includes opponents and political activists.

According to the royal decree issued last September, "The relevant authority at the Interior Ministry may request the executive judge to substitute the original penalty by one or more of the alternative penalties, provided that it would not pose a threat to public security, and that the convicted person must have paid all the financial liabilities handed down against them by a criminal court, unless it is impossible for them to pay."

The alternative penal code includes "working for a party for free, taking into account its compatibility with the convict's profession for a period of time that does not exceed one year and not more than 8 hours a day."

The conditions also include house arrest in a specific location, prohibition of access to a specific place, pledging not to be exposed or get in contact with certain persons or entities, electronic surveillance, attending rehabilitation and training programs, and repairing the damage caused by the crime. 

Bahrain began implementing alternative penalties in 2017. The new measures give the Interior Ministry the power to request the judge to replace the original sentence before the execution of the alternative sentence.

On the other hand, a number of human rights activists consider the new measures insufficient, especially as the authorities continue to restrict on freedoms, prevent associations from working and deny activists and opponents their civil and political rights such as the right to vote and candidacy.

Some human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have previously criticized Bahrain's alternative penal code, which it considers to contain numerous shortcomings, as the released detainee is denied the right to expression, association and assembly.

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