Family Law - A necessity for Bahraini society

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The Family Law has already proved its worth in Bahrain as a central pillar for protecting the rights of women in legal family disputes such as divorce, child custody, domestic violence, inheritance and other essential facets of life.

However, through no fault of their own, Shia women and families are currently excluded from enjoying the benefits of such a law. Here we will briefly look at why this is the case and why this matters:

In Bahrain we have two courts concerned with family issues based on Shariah law; the Sunni courts and the Jaafari (Shia) courts; reflecting the traditional legal differences in these religious schools of thought. 

In 2008, Bahrain succeeded in passing a Sunni Family Law. However, Shia legislators blocked efforts towards either a unified Family Law, or a Jaafari Family Law. These MPs claimed that the proposed bill contradicted religious teachings. However, their critics said that these Shia Islamist MPs had rejected the move because it lessened the ability of clerics to have influence over the private lives of local communities.

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On 21 November, Amnesty International issued a 55-page report investigating two Bahraini institutions for addressing human rights abuses – the Ombudsman’s Office and the Special Investigations Unit. The report was entitled: Window dressing or pioneers of change?

A review of Amnesty’s report into the Ombudsman’s Office can be found here.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) was established by the Public Prosecutor in March 2012 in response to BICI recommendations 1716 and 1722, with a mandate to determine the criminal liability of officials responsible for physical abuse and other illegal acts. Following its investigation, the SIU can bring criminal charges against the suspected perpetrator and refer them for trial before the courts or refer the matter to another government authority to impose disciplinary sanctions.

Amnesty noted that “the powers of the SIU have increased since 2014 when the head of the SIU was given the rank of Attorney General, enabling him to refer criminal prosecutions directly to the courts for trial without first obtaining the PPO’s approval.”

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Action needed after the Financial Audit Bureau report

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In the past few years the Financial Audit Bureau has done a commendable job in highlighting shortcomings of Government institutions through its comprehensive annual reports, presented to the leadership and announced to the public.

While this is a step in the right direction for Bahrain’s reform efforts, there is a need for action and for the public to have confidence that there are real consequences for management shortcomings and corruption. 

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Analysis of the Financial Audit Bureau report – part 3

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On 10 November 2016 the annual FAB report was issued, investigating failures in administration procedures in all public sector departments, ranging from cases of poor management to incidences of corruption potentially necessitating criminal action.

All departments are obligated to follow up and address the issues raised, with the most serious cases being referred to the public prosecutor. The report is also submitted to Parliament which each year reviews the issues raised and recommends actions to take.

In its overview of government financial procedures, the FAB report extensively discussed the management of the national debt and concerns of a sharp rise between 2011 and the end of 2015, from BD 3.5bn to 7.2bn, representing approximately 60% of GDP.

The report also looked at project budgets allotted to departments by the Finance Ministry. In many cases ministries had only spent around half of their project budgets, despite certain ministries being overspent in terms of their total budgets. The report evaluated a range of these projects and raised criticisms about the effectiveness of expenditure.

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