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MPs refuse to ratify rights law

PARLIAMENT yesterday refused to pass a law ratifying an international civil and political rights convention saying it was against the country's Islamic laws.

It instead referred the draft law to ratify the United Nations convention to its foreign affairs, defence and national security committee to include the MPs reservations.

MPs said they understood the convention's importance and Bahrain's keenness to sign the agreement.

However, many of its provisions went against Sharia and Bahrain's government should have reservations on the relevant articles.

The committee will have two weeks to bring the issue back for discussions, before MPs can vote on its ratification.

The parliament's decision not to ratify the convention without the relevant reservations was backed by the government.

Foreign Ministry representative Dr Yousif Abdulkarim told MPs at their weekly session yesterday that the government had similar reservations expressed by them on the convention.

"However, the government believes that this is the most important convention that MPs were looking into since the start of their term," he said.

"Bahrain will have to make changes to some of its rules, regulations and laws to be in line with the convention."

Dr Abdulkarim said 146 countries have already signed the convention, which was first introduced in 1966.

"Many Arab countries had the same reservations, saying that some of its articles flouted the Sharia," he said.

Committee secretary Mohammed Al Shaikh said the convention would ensure Bahrain fulfilled its political and civil rights before the international community.

"It is true there are reservations, but they could be discussed later, considering it is good for Bahrain," he said.

"This convention doesn't force Bahrain to make changes that flouted the Sharia or contradict the National Action Charter or Constitution, it just gives a frame, which it should work in.

"The convention doesn't interfere with our national issues, it just organises them."

Al Menbar Bloc president Dr Salah Abdulrahman said the country's reservation on the convention were reasonable.

He said it allowed the freedom of religion, but included the right to change to religion without any restrictions.

"This means that Muslims could convert to another religion, something against the Islamic law, since those who do so should be beheaded," he said.

"Under the convention, women have the right to marry without their father's consent, while in Islam they should do so if she was a virgin," he said.

Parliament services committee chairman and Al Menbar Bloc vice-president Dr Ali Ahmed said the ratification of the convention without reservations would mean changing Bahrain's constitution.

"The convention is very liberal and if Bahrain wanted to sign it, then it will have to put our reservations with it," he said.

Al Asala Bloc vice-president Hamad Al Mohannadi said the convention was designed for the West and not Arab countries.

Under the convention, Bahrain will be obliged to present a report on the countries political and civil rights.

The report should include information from all parties concerned, whether civil or political societies, in addition to the government.



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