The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) welcomes the U.S. State Department’s long overdue public statement last week in response to the Bahraini government’s sentencing of Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights defender, to three years in prison. However, the State Department’s call for "the verdict and sentence [to] be reconsidered in the appeals process" is a woefully insufficient response considering Nabeel’s predicament and the ongoing repression and human rights violations committed by the government of Bahrain.
Nabeel Rajab, one of several human rights defenders currently imprisoned and threatened in Bahrain, was condemned to 3 years in prison last Thursday for organizing and participating in peaceful marches. He is also scheduled appear in court this Thursday, August 23rd, to appeal another sentence of 3 months in prison for simply having Tweeted his criticism of his government. These charges not only violate Nabeel’s basic rights to freedom of expression and assembly, but Nabeel’s family and colleagues were denied access to his trial on August 16th, calling into question the fairness and transparency of the legal proceedings.
As a member of the Human Rights Council, which in July of this year passed a resolution reaffirming the right to freedom of expression "through any media of one’s choice" (A/HRC/RES/20/8), the United States has an even greater responsibility to uphold international human rights standards including the freedom of expression. Moreover, given that the United States is one of Bahrain’s closest military allies (approving continued arms sales to the Kingdom of Bahrain in May 2012 despite clear evidence of Bahraini security forces using excessive force against civilians), it is in a unique position to pressure Bahraini authorities to respect their citizens’ fundamental freedoms. Rather than doing so, the U.S. government has until today stayed silent on Nabeel Rajab’s ongoing harassment, and is still failing to publicly and clearly condemn what is without any doubt a violation of international human rights law.
FIDH calls on the U.S. government to publicly denounce the continued persecution of human rights defenders in Bahrain, and to insist on the immediate and unconditional release of Nabeel Rajab and all other prisoners of conscience.