[JURIST] Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official website] declared a three-month state of emergency [decree text, in Arabic] Tuesday in response to growing unrest in the island nation. The announcement of the martial law style system was made in state-run media and gives the military commander “authority to take measures and procedures necessary for maintaining the integrity of the homeland.” More than 10,000 protesters stormed the Saudi Arabian embassy [NYT report] in Manama, the nation’s capital, denouncing the monarchy. Foreign troops from Saudi Arabia and other surrounding nations have also moved into the country as a sign of the growing social and political tension in the Middle East and North Africa [BBC backgrounder]. Iran issued a statement saying the influx of foreign troops is unacceptable, but Bahrain’s government has defended the move [AP report] as shield force reflecting a common regional destiny.
The state of emergency comes just days after a group of 22 Bahraini lawmakers, part of an independent pro-government bloc, called Sunday on the King to impose martial law under articles 36 and 123 of the Bahraini Constitution [text, PDF]. Last week, the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) [official website], which includes Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE, deployed troops to Bahrain [BBC report] for the purpose of guarding oil installations and financial institutions. The Bahraini government’s response to the ongoing protests have prompted international concern. In February, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] called for an end to violence against protesters [JURIST report] in the country, referencing attempts to quell protests sweeping across the region. Ban said that he is “disturbed by all these violent means of trying to disperse demonstrators, the freedom of expression, freedom of access to information, particularly the journalists.”