August 27, 2005

better late than never

From 22 October 1974 until 18 February 2001 is the period collectively known as the era of the State Security Law. Anyone could be arbitrarily consigned to prison for up to 3 years without charge or trial, subject only to the satisfaction of the Interior Ministry. Thousands did, some perished, and hundreds were forced into exile. A nation was scarred. Indelibly.

A public outing about that period by an ex-official is a rare occurrence indeed. But that’s what Dr. Hussain Al-Baharnah, a former Minister of State for Legal Affairs, did when he chose to break from the norm and speak to a newspaper about his tenure during those dark years. Startling revelation it was not, but coming from someone who came as close to the centre of power as an appointed official could ever be , it was a welcome if overdue correction to the historical record. He proved the sceptics right and confirmed that the Council of Ministers is just not where the real power resides, and that the SSL was never brought to a discussion by the cabinet.

Perhaps it was the weight of history, or the need to clear his name (did he ever consider resigning?), that brought us this rare public testimony by this ex-official. Here are some excerpts from Al-Wasat of yesterday:

"Journalist: Were you part of the government effort to push through the SSL?

Al-Baharnah: I was the head of Legal Affairs department at the time, but I hade no prior knowledge of the State Security Law. I was surprised by it as much as anyone else.

J: Are you blameless as far as the SSL is concerned?

HB: I certainly didn’t see it coming, I was not asked to review it, and it has never reached my desk. And do you conceive that our Council of Ministers is like the British cabinet, where a minister could voice an objection? I tried to check with a colleague if the draft law was ever brought for discussion before us at the Council of Ministers. He did not recall it happening, nor did I.

J: Had the state ever come to reconsider the wisdom of relying heavily on security measures?

HB: The state is not the Council of Ministers. The focus on security was overwhelming, and a person like Mr. Henderson was a man of considerable influence. Those plans are all of his conception. I saw how he was given complete freedom to do all that he thought fit.

J: Have you seen anything worse than SSL?

HB: No, I don’t think I did".


At 1:23 PM, Blogger Bahrania said...

Interesting new information you wrote about there. If Baharna didn't like it, why did he continue to serve under the warlords? Its pretty pathetic to come out now and say he had nothing to do with it. The better question is to ask what did he do to try and stop it.

At 7:56 PM, Blogger MR said...

It's rare to find someone getting off a -very- gravy train over a matter of consciene. A notable recent exception was the case of the presiding judge of the Jaafari Appeal court, but then look how soon his stance faded from public memory.

At 10:00 PM, Blogger Bahrania said...


Sometimes you do things as a matter of principle rather than public opinion - as a message of protest. Although they wouldn't want you in their ranks if you dont agree with the rules of the game. I dont think Albaharna left a legacy regardless.

At 8:54 PM, Blogger MR said...

Actually, they were two (same family) who resigned. The other already had a univ. pension, but this man had no such cushion to lean on. Which made his stance all the more exceptional.

At 4:33 PM, Blogger books said...

Interesting article on this Blog about Baharna. Richard Mechan, the Briton who spent four years in Jau prison Bahrain, has had a book about his experiences published in which Dr Bahrana became involved. The book gives a startling insight into the real facts behind this case and reveals to the Bahrain and Expatriate communities in Bahrain startling descriptions into the Judicial and Penal systems in Bahrain. A free e-book version of The State is Not Immune, can be downloaded free of charge from


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