King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain issued a royal decree declaring a state of national emergency that began Tuesday (March 15th) and will last three months. It is the first decree of its kind in the kingdom's history.
The decree authorised the commander of the Bahrain Defence Force to take the necessary measures to implement it. The state of national emergency follows several days of political turmoil and a deteriorating security situation which reached its peak last Sunday when demonstrators clashed with security forces on a highway near the capital's financial district.
Bahrain requested support from the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), and 1,000 troops from Saudi Arabia were deployed from the Peninsula Shield Force. The UAE also sent 500 security officers.
Ahmed Farhan, secretary-general of the National Foundation for Human Rights in Bahrain, said the decision to implement a state of national emergency is in accordance with the provisions of the 2002 constitution on maintaining security and order.
A 12-hour curfew was imposed at 4 p.m. in areas where clashes occurred, including Pearl Square and the financial district, according to Al Jazeera. Three people died and hundreds were injured when security forces clashed with demonstrators in the square Wednesday. Three police officers were also killed, according to wire reports.
The interior ministry also announced that a member of Bahrain's public security was killed Tuesday after being intentionally run over by a car driven by protesters.
Demonstrations were scheduled for Wednesday, but Manama's streets were mostly empty after the curfew was imposed, according to wire reports. The country's health minister resigned in protest as did many judges, according to the BBC.
The decision to impose a state of national emergency is the least severe action that could be adopted during exceptional situations in the kingdom, after a state of war and martial law, according to Farhan.
Farhan said a state of national emergency differs from war and martial law, noting that "the king may, according to this article, authorise the commander in chief of the defence force to take the necessary measures to restore security and order in the kingdom", and pointed to the inability of the regular security forces to control the breakdown in security.
Farhan said, "The move came a little late, especially after the state lost its authority, and provocative acts increased, including a departure from the norm, to the extent of enforcing civil disobedience, and schools, universities and even houses of worship were disrupted."
Farid Ghazi, a Bahraini lawyer, said the state of emergency is a lower form of martial law and includes basic procedures to preserve the rights of citizens and enforce standard laws, accompanied by special military measures to protect Bahrainis.
Ghazi said the decree is considered exceptional and is based on a legitimate principle that the "safety of the state is above the law". He supported the move.
The national emergency is limited to three months, but Ghazi confirmed this is not binding as it "can be revoked if the security situation is restored even if that happens in a period not exceeding two days".
He said, "In the event of continued chaos which would necessitate an extension of the state of emergency to more than three months, both chambers of the National Assembly, the Council of Representatives and the Consultative Council, will vote on an extension."
Abdul Jalil Khalil, head of the parliamentary al-Wefaq bloc, which withdrew from the House of Representatives, condemned the declaration of a state of emergency and repeated the opposition's stance against the entry of GCC military forces into Bahrain.
Khalil accused the Bahraini security forces of waging what he termed "a brutal assault on civilians", pointing out that the opposition appealed to the international community to protect protesters in Pearl Square.