Bahrain's parliament has narrowly passed amendments to introduce tougher punishments, including the death penalty, for manufacturing, possessing, distributing or using explosives.

During debate on the issue at yesterday’s weekly session, several MPs demanded the death penalty be abolished from Bahrain’s law because they contravened international laws.

Of the 40 MPs, 21 voted in favour of the amendments to the 1976 Penal Code, while 11 objected and the rest either abstained or were not in the chamber.

The amendments – which were given the green light by parliament’s foreign affairs, defence and national security committee last week – punish anyone who manufactures explosives and flammable containers such as Molotov cocktails, either for their personal use or for terrorism, with up to 10 years in prison and a fine between BD500 and BD1,000.

Possessing substances used to manufacture explosives and flammable items also carries the same punishment.

Those possessing explosives and flammable containers handed to them by others will be sentenced up to five years in prison and fined up to BD500.

Those who distribute or use explosives or flammable items for terrorist activities will be sentenced up to eight years in jail.

However, if it leads to permanent disability then the punishment is between 10 years and life in prison, and if death occurs then the punishment includes the death penalty.

“Bahrain has been toughening up punishments but there hasn’t been any drop in these crimes over the past few years, and it is time that we as legislators approach things differently,” said woman and child committee vice-chairwoman Kaltham Al Hayki.

“Alternative punishments could be developed to include those with higher jail terms – it is more effective to integrate criminals back into society instead of locking them in prison, and this has shown excellent results in Denmark, Switzerland and Austria.

“The death penalty is an inhumane punishment and there are currently 142 countries that have abolished it with only 56 countries still implementing it – it is time for Bahrain to join the voluntary UN conventions that abolishes the death penalty.”

However, many other MPs, along with Parliament and Shura Council Affairs Minister Ghanim Al Buainain, disagreed – arguing that terrorism charges should not be taken lightly or penalised through alternative punishments.

“We are talking about serious crimes that lead to death – a life for a life,” said Mr Al Buainain.

“The US, which abolished the death penalty as a country, still sees capital punishment being enforced in some states and for less serious crimes than what we are debating now.”

Parliament’s foreign affairs, defence and national security committee chairman Mohammed Al Sissi added that rehabilitation programmes were developed for first time offenders or criminals with low risk charges, not for murderers and terrorists.

“We are speaking about the death penalty for those who killed innocent people with families and children, civilians and security personnel and not any normal crime,” he said.

“It is not justice to pat on the back of a killer and say ‘habibi we can fix you’.

“In the amendments we have also added life imprisonment as a way out for judges should they want to take the humanitarian approach or show some mercy.”

The amendments have been referred to the Shura Council for review.


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