The law of Bahrain represents a mixture of Islamic religious law ( Shari'ah ), tribal law, and other civil codes and regulations. The new constitution promises an independent judiciary. A Higher Judicial Council supervises the courts. Courts have been granted the power of judicial review.
The new reforms establish a constitutional court, consisting of a president and six members, appointed by the king for a specified period. Members are not liable to dismissal. The government, or either house of the National Assembly, may challenge the constitutionality of any measure before the court. The king may refer to the court draft laws prior to their adoption, to determine their consitutionality.
Military courts are confined to military offenses only, and cannot be extended to others without the declaration of martial laws.
Shari'ah governs the personal legal rights of women, although the new constitution provides for women's political rights. Specific rights vary according to Shi'a or Sunni interpretations of Islamic law, as determined by the individual's faith, or by the courts in which various contracts, including marriage, have been made. While both Shi'a and Sunni women have the right to initiate a divorce, religious courts may refuse the request. Women of either branch of Islam may own and inherit property and may represent themselves in all public and legal matters. A Muslim woman legally may marry a non-Muslim man if the man converts to Islam. In such marriages, the children automatically are considered to be Muslim.