21 November 2017 – Fifteen rights groups have today written to 11 states and the European Union calling for action ahead of the conclusion of Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab’s appeal against his two-year sentence for stating that Bahrain bars reporters and human rights workers from entry into the country.
In the letters, which are addressed to the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union, as well as Germany, Ireland, France, Sweden, Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway and Canada, the rights groups ask the states “to urgently raise, both publicly and privately, the case of Nabeel Rajab, one of the Gulf’s most prominent human rights defenders.” The letter further urges governments to support Rajab “by condemning his sentencing and calling for his immediate and unconditional release, and for all outstanding charges against him to be dropped.”
On 22 November 2017 Mr Rajab is expecting the conclusion of his appeal against a two-year prison sentence. Rajab was sentenced on 10 July 2017 on charges of “publishing and broadcasting fake news that undermines the prestige of the state” under article 134 of Bahrain’s Penal Code, in relation to his statement to journalists that the Bahraini government bars reporters and human rights workers from entering the country. In a previous appeal court hearing earlier this month, the judge refused to allow the defence’s evidence, including testimonies of journalists and researchers who had been banned from entering Bahrain.
“It is unacceptable that Nabeel Rajab, the well-known human rights defender, is still detained for solely exercising his right to speak. He has peacefully criticized the Bahraini authorities and expressed his thoughts on political issues and, as all Bahraini citizens, he has the fundamental right to freedom of expression. The Bharani authorities should take immediate steps to ensure the safety and the release of Rajab” – said Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International.
The human rights defender, who is President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), has been detained since his arrest on 13 June 2016. He was held largely in solitary confinement in the first nine months of his detention, violating the UN Standard Minimum Rules for Non-Custodial Measures (Tokyo Rules).
Rajab faces up to a further 15 years in prison on a second set of charges related to comments he made on Twitter criticising the Saudi-led war in Yemen and exposing torture in Bahrain. His 18th court hearing will be held on 31 December 2017. In September, the Public Prosecution brought new charges against related to social media posts made while he was already in detention; he has also been charged with “spreading false news” in relation to his letter from a Bahraini jail published in the New York Times.
Rajab was transferred to Jau Prison on 25 October 2017. He was subjected to humiliating treatment on arrival, when guards immediately searched him in a degrading manner and shaved his hair by force. Prison authorities have singled him out by confiscating his books, toiletries and clothes, and raiding his cell at night. Rajab is isolated from other prisoners convicted for speech-related crimes and is instead detained in a three-by-three metre cell with five inmates.
Campaigners today protested outside the Bahrain embassy in London to call on the Bahraini regime to release Nabeel Rajab and end reprisal attacks against the family of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, a prominent UK-based human rights campaigner living in exile from Bahrain, who is Director of Advocacy at the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy: “Nabeel Rajab has been imprisoned for exposing injustice in Bahrain. Three of my own family members have been imprisoned and tortured for my human rights campaigning. The Bahraini government pursues a pattern of revenge tactics against human rights defenders, but we will not rest until they are freed. If the UK government cares for the rights of Bahraini people, then it must tell its repressive ally that this violent campaign to silence us is unacceptable.”
Jodie Ginsberg, CEO, Index on Censorship: “The ongoing judicial harassment of Nabeel Rajab is a gross injustice. Nabeel is a man of peace who seeks democratic reforms for his country. His persecution for expressing his opinions — something taken for granted in many nations — must not stand. We call on Bahrain to recognise international human rights norms by releasing Nabeel and ending its prosecution of him.”
Read the letter here
The 15 rights groups are:
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights
FIDH within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Front Line Defenders
Global Legal Action Network
Gulf Centre for Human Rights
Index on Censorship
International Service for Human Rights
Reporters Without Borders
World Organisation Against Torture within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders