BAHRAIN: Call for immediate release of Nabeel Rajab, as prison sentence is upheld

Press release

Paris-Geneva, November 22, 2017 – The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, an FIDH-OMCT partnership, strongly condemns the prison sentence against prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and calls for his immediate release. Nabeel Rajab is spending his 527th day in arbitrary detention and will have to serve a two-year prison sentence for stating during TV media interviews that Bahrain bars reporters and human rights workers from entry into the country.

Mr. Nabeel Rajab is the co-founder and President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Founding Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of FIDH, and a member of the Human Rights Watch Middle East advisory committee. Detained since June 13, 2016, he is facing a series of charges and up to 18 years in prison in relation with his freedom of expression in different criminal cases.

In the “TV interviews case”, he was facing charges of “spreading false information and malicious rumours about domestic matters with the aim of discrediting the State” in relation to three televised interviews made in 2015 and 2016 in which he exposed Bahrain’s poor human rights record, in particular its ban on journalists and human rights workers. After fifteen hearings before a lower court and eight appeal hearings, the verdict took place today, November 22, 2017. The Appeal Court upheld the two-year prison sentence. Mr. Rajab is also facing a further 15 years in prison for tweets in which he denounced human rights violations. The 18th court hearing in that case is scheduled for December 31, 2017.

Mr. Rajab is also being investigated for op-eds published on his behalf in The New York Times and Le Monde. In September, the Public Prosecution brought new charges against him related to social media posts made while he was already in detention.

Nabeel Rajab was transferred to Jau Prison on October 25, 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. Nabeel 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.

“Nabeel Rajab’s unfair sentence violates his basic rights and his freedom of expression. We are very concerned by his health and detention conditions which keep deteriorating. Our Deputy Secretary General’s continuous harassment is outrageous and must stop. Bahrain’s authorities cannot get away with their crackdown any longer”

FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos

Mr. Nabeel Rajab, 53, suffers from poor health conditions which have worsened because of his detention. On May 12, 2017, the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UN CAT) issued a strong criticism of Bahrain’s record on torture and ill-treatment, and noted “with deep concern” the arbitrary imprisonment and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, including Mr. Rajab and Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, former BCHR President, sentenced to life in prison in June 2011 for politically motivated charges and whose health conditions have also been worsening [1].

“Our call to the Bahraini authorities is simple and straightforward: fully comply with the Committee’s conclusions, stop harassment and ill-treatment, release all those detained under spurious grounds”

OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

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