The King of Bahrain has taken a major step in the cause of national reconciliation by reinstating the citizenship of 551 prisoners whose nationality had been revoked by the courts. King Hamad instructed Bahrain’s Interior Ministry to examine each case in order to prepare a list of those whose nationalities can be reinstated.

“The study and evaluation of the situation of convicts should be based on criteria pertaining to the seriousness, impact and consequences of the crimes, as well as on the danger the convict may pose on national security,” the Bahrain News Agency said in its announcement of the king’s decision.

As we have seen in Northern Ireland, the former Yugoslavia, Palestine and other locations which have experienced unrest and civil conflict; in order for peace to be possible, there is a need for confidence-building measures and serious efforts at reconciliation. Since 2011 King Hamad has consistently taken the lead in measures to calm the situation and keep the doors of dialogue open. This included commissioning the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report, and his full acceptance of the BICI’s recommendations, which were subsequently implemented. This also includes the King and Crown Prince’s successive efforts at national reconciliation dialogue, with opposition elements and other representatives of Bahrain’s society. The 2012 Constitutional Reforms, the 2014 election boundary amendments and other important measures have largely been driven by the King’s personal initiatives.

At the same time, it should be noted that hundreds of individuals have been convicted of involvement in various forms of terrorist and violent acts, with substantial numbers receiving training by Iranian proxies overseas. Thus, efforts towards reconciliation must be clear-sighted in ensuring that individuals who pose a clear threat to public safety are not in a position to cause further harm. That is why it is welcome to see that this amnesty measure is being introduced based on clear criteria for identifying those who are no longer considered a threat.

Consequently this initiative by the King of Bahrain has been widely welcomed by all components of society. This is an important and far-reaching measure for turning the page on the painful and divisive events of 2011.

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