DUBAI: Bahraini lawmakers voted Tuesday to change the constitution to allow civilians to be tried in military courts, further empowering its security forces amid a crackdown on dissent at level unseen since its 2011 Arab Spring protests.The decision by the 40-seat Council of Representatives, the elected lower house of the tiny Gulf nation’s National Assembly, comes after a royal decree a month ago restored the power of its domestic spy service to make some arrests. Limiting the power of the National Security Agency was a key reform recommended after authorities put down the 2011 demonstrations.
Bahrain’s government declined to comment as the bill had yet to be approved by the full National Assembly.
The bill revises a portion of Bahrain’s constitution by removing limitations on who military courts can try. During the council’s session, Brig. Gen. Yussef Rashid Flaifel, the head of the country’s military courts, told lawmakers the change is needed as the nation is “fighting terrorism.”
Lawmakers voted 31-1 to pass the constitutional amendment, with three members on hand not voting. The bill now heads to the 40-member Consultative Council, a body appointed by Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet and an under-construction British naval base.
In January, Bahrain executed three men found guilty of a deadly bomb attack on police.