Bahrain: Lawyers To March Against 'Injustice'


By Mohammed Aslam and Tariq Khonji

BAHRAINI lawyers will hold a three-hour rally on Wednesday to protest against a host of grievances including alleged mismanagement, a slow judicial process, discrimination and advocacy laws that allow foreign firms to operate in Bahrain.

The Bahrain Bar Association (BBA) is calling on Bahraini lawyers to attend the rally, which will be held outside the Justice Ministry, in the Diplomatic Area, from 9am to midday.

They say that Royal Decree 77 of 2006 has hurt their business by allowing foreign firms to "steal" their clients and described it as "unconstitutional".

The demonstrators are also advocates for the establishment of a Personal Status Law, which currently doesn't exist in Bahrain and would spell out the rules governing domestic disputes.

Critics say that the current system allows Sharia judges to issue widely different and sometimes contradictory sentences, which are often unfair to women.

The lawyers would also like to see the BBA turned into a trade union, while lawyer and member Rashid Al Jar said they were also protesting against disorganised administration.

"Court sessions never start on time," he told the GDN. "Court documents are lost in the system.

"Employees tell us that the ruling papers are with the Public Prosecution, which tells us that they are in the court - making us run around.

"Court sessions are delayed because the assistant public prosecutors do not turn up on time.

"There must also be a shortage of judges because in some courts the session does not start until sessions in other courts are over."

Mr Al Jar also claims the Justice Ministry does not recruit Bahraini lawyers as judges on the grounds that it can allegedly exercise more control over judges from Egypt and other countries.

He is also against the law that allows foreign firms to operate in Bahrain because they hurt local firms' business.

"We are against foreign legal firms and offices operating in Bahrain and believe that Royal Decree 77 of 2006 violates the Constitution. We want it to be revoked," he said.

Lawyer and BBA member Radhi Khalil agreed, claiming that international practice protects local lawyers from foreign competition.

He also called on the government to accept a BBA request to become a full-blown union.

"The BBA is working hard to turn into a trade union and the lawyers are working to achieve this" he said.

"The BBA has already sent letters to the relevant authorities and they are studying the matter."

Mr Radhi also called for the establishment of a written Personal Status Law, the lack of which he says causes much suffering among Bahraini Muslims.

He claimed the main obstacle is that some religious leaders, particularly among the Shi'ites, are objecting to it.

Mr Radhi said rulings that come out of Sharia courts are often harmful, leading to a great deal of resentment.

He also alleged that the system had victimised not only women and children, but men as well.

"Debate on this matter is continuing among religious scholars, public figures and officials," he said.

"We must not miss any opportunity to form this Personal Status Law with the co-operation of the religious authorities and experienced judges."

Lawyer Fouad Hameed Qrainees, who objected to foreign firms' presence in Bahrain, said that a Personal Status Law was a must.

"I endorse the idea of involving the BBA, religious figures and the government in formulating the Personal Status Law," he said.

"The absence of this law allows judge to issue judgements based on their individual viewpoints.

"We need this law to protect the rights of men and women because there are judges who are misusing their positions."

Mr Qrainees said he expects many religious scholars to oppose the idea, but added that there needs to be input from all stakeholders - including lawyers.

He also called for court procedures to be speeded up and made more efficient.

"Cases that should be dealt with quickly drag on for a long time," he said.

"The number of cases going before the courts is increasing, causing further delays."

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