New law on NGO activities finalised in Bahrain



The meeting discussed the issue of NGOs being penalised by the ministry. Faisal Fulad of the Human Rights Watch told the Tribune that according to the old law the ministry could stop an organisation for 50 days on a temporary basis and then approach the court and have the organisation’s activities rescinded for good. He said that the new law had taken away that authority.

Catherine M Shea of Programme ICNL added that criminal penalties for a number of infractions was best left to the criminal courts. “We should not have new penalties in this law.” She added that the ministry is to withdraw those criminal pernalties. “And instead we replaced that with one article that says organisations will be subject to the same criminal laws that govern the nation.”

Among the key issues discussed was the issue of funding. The ministry had to give its approval for the NGO to open a bank account. When the bank asks the ministry on the standing of an NGO, then the ministry gives its approval, said Shea.

NGOs also needed prior approval for any fund-raising, she said. “The ministry only wants to ensure that the fund-raising is not for a non-existent cause. In this we are looking to models from other countries to design appropriate provisions for regulating that kind of activity without regulating other types of activities,” she added..

Fulad added that the doubts raised were that the funds could be put to wrong use. Article 16 of the law states that a society can hold fund-raising events for meeting their operations expenses. The ministry has agreed with it, he said.

“We agree that the amounts collected should be made known to ensure transparency,” he added.



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