Bahrain’s Shura Council [official website], the upper house of parliament, on Sunday approved [BNA report] a change [explanatory note, PDF] in the nation’s constitution that will allow military trials for civilians accused of being involved in terrorism plots. Critics are concerned that Bahrain is returning to policies that it promised to reform, including cracking down on dissenting political groups and skirting around legal processes, after 2011 protests rocked the small nation bordering Saudi Arabia.
Bahrain’s human rights record has been closely scrutinized in recent months. In September 32 nations joined [JURIST report] a statement to the UN urging Bahrain to protect freedom of peaceful assembly and speech, and to investigate reports of torture used on prisoners. In April a human rights group said [JURIST report] that Bahrain’s post-2011 reforms had failed to put a stop to human rights violations including illegal detentions and torture. And last February the Bahrain Ministry of the Interior started [JURIST report] a criminal investigation against a political opposition group for allegedly illegal content posted on social media.