Constitutional and statutory provisions
Article 26 of the Bahraini Constitution guarantees the secrecy and freedom of all telegraphic, postal and telephonic communications, and states that no communication content may be revealed except in cases of necessity prescribed by the law and in accordance with legal procedure. 1
The Code of Criminal Procedures (Decree No. 46 of 2002) allows for the seizure of post, the censorship of telephone and email communications and the ‘recording of conversations that occurred in a special place’ where this would be useful in securing a conviction. To take any of these actions, permission must be obtained from a Lower Court Judge, and the length of seizure, censorship or recording may not exceed 30 days (this period may be renewed). 2
In 2006, the warrant requirements for surveillance appear to have been weakened by the introduction of the controversial Law on Protecting Society from Terrorism (Decree No. 58 of 2006). In the case that the suspected crime may ‘cause public disorder’ or otherwise threaten the unity and security of the Kingdom, the law empowers the Attorney General or whoever acts for him (presumably any member of the Public Prosecution) to order the seizure of mail of all kinds, publications, parcels and telegrams, the surveillance of communications by all methods and recording everything that takes place in public or private premises. Under this law, seizure or surveillance may continue for a period of sixty days. However, in order to extend this period, an order from the High Court is required. 3
It is not clear how these laws are applied to communications data which does not form part of message content, and this may provide scope for unlimited access to such data through the Lawful Access Regulation.