BAHRAIN: continued arbitrary detention and judicial harassment faced by Mr. Nabeel Rajab

Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continued arbitrary detention and judicial harassment faced by Mr. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and FIDH Deputy Secretary General.

New information
BHR 001 / 0812 / OBS 048.20

Arbitrary detention /
Critical health condition
June 22, 2016

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continued arbitrary detention and judicial harassment faced by Mr. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and FIDH Deputy Secretary General.

According to the information received, on June 21, 2016, Mr. Nabeel Rajab appeared before the Public Prosecution, which remanded him in custody for eight additional days, in spite of a request for immediate release made by his legal counsel.

During yesterday’s hearing, Mr. Rajab informed the Public Prosecutor that he was suffering from severe pain due to chronic illnesses such as gallstones and skin infections, and that his immunity was deteriorating due to his current health status and bad detention conditions. Mr. Rajab also highlighted that he had been examined by a doctor of the Bahrain Defense Hospital earlier in the morning, who confirmed the need to remove his gallstones, but that he was denied a copy of his medical report.

During the hearing, Mr. Rajab also reported that he was held in solitary confinement in a dirty cell. He stated in particular that cleaning products and items provided by his family were not allowed by the guards and officers of the East Riffa Police Station, where he has been detained since his arrest on June 13, 2016 (see background information). On June 14, 2016, he had already appeared before the Public Prosecutor, who had remanded him in custody for seven days, under accusations of “publishing and broadcasting false news that undermine the prestige of the State”, reportedly in relation to interviews he gave in early 2015 and 2016.

The Observatory denounces the continued arbitrary detention of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, which seems to be yet another evidence of a long-standing pattern of harassment against him in an attempt to sanction his human rights activities (see background information).

The Observatory calls upon the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Nabeel Rajab, and to put an end to any act of harassment against him and in general against all human rights defenders in Bahrain.

Background information:

In the morning of June 13, 2016, police forces reportedly led by the Cybercrime Unit arrested Mr. Nabeel Rajab, after raiding his house and seizing a number of electronic devices.

On June 13 in the afternoon, Mr. Rajab was able to contact his wife by phone, and reported being detained at East Riffa Police Station. On June 14, 2016, he was transferred to the Public Prosecution, which remanded him in custody for seven days, on accusations of “publishing and broadcasting false news that undermine the prestige of the State”.

Mr. Rajab’s arrest took place on the first day of the 32nd session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, in a context where five other human rights activists and relatives of a victim(1) were stopped by Immigration, Passport, and Residency officials at the Bahrain International Airport on June 12, as they were about to board their plane to Geneva, and were informed that they were banned from travelling.

The Observatory recalls that Mr. Rajab has faced continuous judicial harassment for his legitimate human rights work since his first arrest in June 2012. On July 9, 2012, Mr. Rajab was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for allegedly libelling the residents of Al Muharraq via several tweets posted on his twitter account. On August 23, 2012, Mr. Rajab was acquitted by the Higher Appeal Court.

On August 16, 2012, the Lower Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Rajab to three years of imprisonment in relation to three cases related to his participation in peaceful gatherings in favour of fundamental freedoms and democracy. In December 2012, the Appeals Court reduced the sentence to two years of imprisonment. Mr. Nabeel Rajab completed his sentence and was released in May 2014.

On October 1, 2014, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was summoned and remanded in detention by the General Directorate of Anti-Corruption and Economic and Electronic Security of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for “insulting a public institution” under Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code. The case related to a tweet he published in September 2014, in which he criticised the military institutions for generating extremist ideologies (the “terrorism tweet” case). On November 2, 2014, the Third Lower Criminal Court ordered Mr. Rajab’s release but barred him from leaving the country.

On January 20, 2015, the Third Lower Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to six months’ imprisonment on the charges of “insulting public institutions and the army”, pursuant to Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code(2).

In 2015, two other sets of criminal charges were brought against Mr. Rajab. On February 26, 2015, Mr. Rajab was summoned for investigations for charges of “inciting hatred towards the regime” in relation to a speech he made in February 2011 during a funeral (the “funeral speech case”). To date, the police investigation is ongoing.

In addition, on April 2, 2015, over twenty police cars surrounded Mr. Rajab’s house and policemen arrested him. Mr. Rajab was then sent to the General Directorate of Anti-Corruption and Economic and Electronic Security to be interrogated and placed in detention in solitary confinement in Isa Town Police Station. On April 3, 2015, Mr. Rajab was interrogated by the CID regarding two new charges brought against him under criminal case No. 2015/38288. The first charge was “insulting a statutory body” (Article 216 of the Penal Code) referring to the Ministry of Interior in relation to tweets he posted denouncing the torture of detainees at Jaw Prison (the “Jaw torture tweets” case). The second charge was “disseminating false rumours in time of war” (Article 133 of the Penal Code) in relation to tweets he published about the Saudi-Arabia led coalition air strikes in Yemen (the “Yemen tweets” case). If sentenced on the second charge, Mr. Rajab could be facing up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Mr. Rajab refused to sign the police minutes of the investigations. On April 4, 2015, Mr. Rajab was brought before the Public Prosecution. The Prosecution ordered seven days detention pending investigation. On April 5, 2015, security police confiscated all electronics devices belonging to Mr. Rajab and members of his family.

On April 11, 2015, the prosecution ordered an additional fifteen days in detention for Mr. Rajab. On April 26, 2015, the Public Prosecution officially charged Mr. Rajab under Articles 133 and 216. The Public Prosecution subsequently extended his detention for an additional fifteen days. On May 11, the Bahraini High Court extended Mr. Rajab´s preventive detention for 15 days.

On May 14, 2015, the Bahrain Criminal Court of Appeal upheld the six-month prison sentence (the “terrorism tweet” case).

On July 13, 2015, the King of Bahrain Hamad Ben Issa Al-Khalifa ordered through Royal Pardon the release of Mr. Nabeel Rajab for health reasons. Mr. Rajab had already served three of the six months jail sentence. Moreover, on the same date, the Public Prosecution imposed a travel ban against Mr. Rajab in relation to criminal case No. 2015/38288 related to the Jaw torture and Yemen tweets cases.

Mr. Rajab’s lawyers subsequently filed appeals against the travel ban with the investigating prosecutor on September 2, 2015, with the Attorney General on September 16, and with the Office of the Public Prosecution on October 1, 2015. They received no response to such petitions. On December 3, 2015, Mr. Rajab’s lawyers submitted another petition to the Attorney General requesting the lift of the travel ban imposed on Mr. Nabeel Rajab on July 13, 2015. In the written request filed to the Attorney General, Mr. Rajab’s lawyers raised the issue of urgency, as Mr. Rajab’s wife health is continuously deteriorating and needs treatment outside of Bahrain, accompanied by Mr. Rajab. This request has been disregarded.

Actions requested:

The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:

i. Release Mr. Nabeel Rajab immediately and unconditionally, as he is targeted solely for his human rights activities;

ii. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and that of all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

iii. Put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Nabeel Rajab and against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

iv. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular:
 its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” ;
 its Article 6 (c) which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” ;
 and its Article 12.2 which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.


• Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA, King of Bahrain, Fax: +973 176 64 587
• Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax : 00973 17 21 05 75; Email:
• Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Fax: +973 175 31 284
• Lt. Gen. Cheikh Rashed bin Abdulla AL KHALIFA, Minister of Interior, Email:
• Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email:
• H.E. Ahmed Mohammed Yousif Aldoseri, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Kingdom of Belgium, Fax: 0032 (0) 26472274; E-mail:

Please also write to diplomatic representations of Bahrain in your respective countries.


Paris-Geneva, June 22, 2016.

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29


(1) Messrs. Hussain Radhi, member of BCHR, Ebtisam Al-Saegh, and Ebrahim Al-Demistani and the parents of Mr. Ali Mushaima, a victim of extrajudicial killing in 2011, who were planning to attend the UN HRC 32 and to participate in a side event on the situation of human rights in Bahrain.

(2) Article 216 of the Penal Code provides for a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment. However, during the October-19 hearing, the Prosecution made an oral statement to ask the judge to consider Mr. Rajab as a “recidivist” in the light of the repetition of the alleged “crime”, and that aggravated circumstances should be retained, to double the maximum penalty applicable to him, meaning six years.

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