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Controversial DNA tests law shelved by parliament committee

Bahrain News
Sat, 13 Jan 2018
By Mohammed Al A’Ali


A CONTROVERSIAL law that would have obliged people in Bahrain to undergo DNA tests has been shelved.

Parliament’s foreign affairs, defence and national security committee had recommended the move in November last year after receiving backing from the Interior Ministry.

The measure was aimed at aiding police investigations, particularly into serious crimes and terrorism cases.

However, the committee has informed parliament acting chairman Ali Al Aradi of its decision to shelve the proposal following feedback from constitutional experts.

Kuwait became the first country in the GCC to implement the move in 2015, following a terrorist bombing at a mosque by Islamic State militants.

However, in October last year the Kuwaiti Constitutional Court ruled four articles in the law as unconstitutional.

Under the proposal, the tests would have been obligatory for Bahrainis, expatriates and even temporary visitors who raised the suspicion of authorities.

The Interior Ministry told the committee in writing in October that there was no budget for the project – meaning even if the bill was passed implementation would depend on funding.

It had also asked for an article giving it the right to store or dispose of DNA samples, saying all data would be recorded on a computer database.

However, the ministry has not provided further feedback following the ruling in Kuwait.

The 11-article bill, originally proposed by parliament’s National Consensus Bloc, had also received support from the Supreme Islamic Council.

The Health Ministry had also backed the proposed law, but had stated it should be applied on a selective basis, with the Interior Minister responsible for deciding who is tested.

It had also stated that access to the database should be limited and all information classified “top secret”, while bylaws were needed to make clear who would be allowed to view or review information.

The ministry had added that provisions for the international exchange of people’s DNA information should also be clearly stated, while secure access was necessary to ensure people’s privacy was not violated.

Under the now-shelved law, those who fail to submit DNA samples would face up to a year in jail and fine of up to BD1,000.

Recommendations

“The law had numerous constitutional flaws that we chose to overlook in our original recommendation, for the greater good of tackling terrorism and solving serious crimes,” committee chairman Abdulla Bin Howail told the GDN.

“However, it was exactly the same as the Kuwaiti law since their constitution is similar to ours.

“We decided to shelve the proposal after the Kuwaiti court deemed some articles in its law unconstitutional and following consultations with our legal experts.

“Even if the bill had been passed, the Interior Ministry doesn’t have the required funding to implement the law. Besides, the law would have been implemented only in 2019, and that too provided the ministry didn’t have other priorities regarding spending on security.”

Priority

Committee vice-chairman Khalifa Al Ghanim told the GDN that the bloc behind the law had been asked to withdraw it.

“From the outset, we didn’t believe the law was necessary but the response from those concerned influenced our decision to go ahead with recommending its approval,” he said.

“With the current identification procedures and the soon-to-be-implemented facial detection system, I don’t consider DNA testing to be a priority, even if the Constitutional Court declares it constitutional.”

mohammed@gdn.com.bh

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