Military-Style Attacks in Bahrain Need Military Trials

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Bahrain’s military judiciary has begun to review the case of three people – two of them civilians – accused of plotting terror attacks against military installations and Bahrain Defence Force personnel.

It is the first case of civilians being tried in a military court in Bahrain for which a constitutional amendment had been carried out by the Parliament and approved by the King last month. The provision is only for those civilians to be tried in military courts who have been charged with committing acts of terrorism targeting military establishments or in case military personnel are involved in such acts.

Amnesty International has begun to squeal as usual no sooner had the news agencies reported the case. This is the same outfit which maintains a stony silence when civilians carrying guns and petrol bombs attack and kill police personnel.

But the head of Bahrain’s military courts told the Parliament at the time it was debating the issue that the change was necessary to “fight terrorism.” The amendment was approved by both chambers of the bicameral Parliament and is considered essential to counter attacks on military and security personnel and facilities in the country.

Before being overly critical of the move, one needs to consider that Bahrain is a tiny city state of barely 600 sq km. Beginning February 2011, when the winds of the so-called Arab Spring began to blow eastwards only to run to seed on arrival in the Arab Gulf countries, it has been a victim of consistent attacks of varying degrees of intensity by opposition thugs and Iran-backed and -funded terror groups of an assortment of nomenclatures.

bahrain military judiciary.
Bahrain military judiciary. Photo: Bahrain News Agency.

However, it is not so much that the civilian laws of Bahrain have been incapable of handling such cases that they are being taken to military courts but rather because in some cases the secrecy provided by military courts is deemed desirable even though they are still tried under civil laws.

It is also because a majority of the thugs, while they might claim to be civilians before the law, actually dress up in military-style uniforms, parade as military men in their own areas, perform military-style manoeuvres, carry arms and helmets in the manner of a militia and are as well equipped as any military man. A good number are known to have been trained in Iran or Iraq at camps run by professional military personnel.

While committing acts of terror, most of them have used pistols, AK-47s and remote-controlled bombs, and the numerous arms caches discovered in Bahrain from their secret storehouses over successive months have yielded some weaponry far more sophisticated and destructive than even that possessed by the Bahrain security authorities.

If for all practical purposes except in name they are military men and think of themselves as such, and behave accordingly, then if to contain their menace they are taken to a military court, it should raise no hackles. The civilians laws are not as tough nor the civilian courts as swift and once Parliament has approved the measure, the move is legal and above board.

Brij Sharma is an Indian journalist and editor based in Bahrain. Brij tells us the interesting stories we don’t usually hear from the middle east country.