The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the decision of the High Criminal Court to postpone the trial of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and FIDH Deputy Secretary General, to October 31st, 2016.
According to the information received, on October 6, 2016, the High Criminal Court decided after a five minutes hearing to postpone the trial to October 31st, without providing any justification.
At the beginning of the hearing, instead of issuing the judgment, the Judge stated that the Court had taken note of the request submitted by Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s lawyers to receive copies of their client’s medical record and had decided to adjourn the case even.
Before the hearing, Mr. Rajab’s lawyers asked the Court a copy of his medical reports after the Ministry of Interior and the Public Prosecution failed to provide them, in clear violation of Mr. Rajab’s right to be informed of his own health condition.
This decision comes three days after Mr. Nabeel Rajab underwent surgery to remove his gallbladder. The surgery would result from Mr. Rajab’s poor detention conditions since his arrest in June 2016.
The trial relates to charges regarding comments posted by Mr. Rajab on Twitter in 2015 about conditions of detention in Jaw prison and the war in Yemen. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison, for which he had already been detained from April 2 to July 13, 2015. Charges include the following: “disseminating false rumours in time of war” (Article 133 of the Penal Code ), “insulting a statutory body” (Article 216 of the Penal Code ) and “offending a foreign country [Saudi Arabia]” (under Article 215 of the Penal Code) (see background information).
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 to sanction his legitimate human rights activity, and deplores the degrading conditions of detention of Mr. Nabeel Rajab as well as his deteriorating health condition.
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 more generally against all human rights defenders in Bahrain.
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 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 Penal Code.
In 2015, two other 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, the Public Prosecution ordered seven days detention pending investigation. On April 5, 2015, security police confiscated all electronic 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 was disregarded.
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. 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, 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” under Article 134 of the Penal Code .
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.
On June 28, 2016, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was transferred from police custody to the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) Hospital due to unprecedented heart problems. On the same day, he was examined by a doctor, and was transferred back to West Riffa police station.
On July 12, during the hearing, the request for release filed by Mr. Rajab’s lawyers was dismissed by the judge and the hearing was postponed to August 2.
On August 2, 2016, the High Criminal Court, formed of judges Messrs. Abdulla Al Ashraf, Ali Al Dahrani and Sh. Hamad Bin Salman Al Khalifa, decided to postpone the trial to September 5, without providing any justification.
During the hearing, the lawyers of Mr. Rajab requested his provisional release on the basis of his health conditions and the lack of evidence, but the request was rejected by the Court. Instead, the judge ordered to refer Mr. Rajab to the prison’s clinic.
On September 4, Mr. Rajab was summoned and questioned by CID officials. He was denied access to a lawyer on this occasion.
On September 5, 2016, the Public Prosecution announced that additional charges had been brought against Mr. Nabeel Rajab, for deliberately disseminating “false news and information and tendentious rumours that undermine the kingdom’s prestige and stature”, in relation to a letter published in the New York Times on September 4, 2016 , describing his judicial harassment and arbitrary detention. If convicted, this could add one year to his final sentence. In total, he now faces up to 16 years in prison. Therefore the court decided to postpone once again the next hearing in his trial to October 6, 2016.
Mr. Rajab finds himself in extremely poor detention conditions while in solitary confinement at West Riffa police station. The living conditions in his cell are extremely unsanitary, as the toilet and shower are unclean and unhygienic, with insufficient water. Moreover, cleaning products and other items, such as a radio, provided by his family were not allowed. According to Mr. Rajab’s family he has lost 7kg since his arrest, has developed high blood pressure and has irregular heart beats. Besides, his skin has yellowed in colour. Over the past month, his health has drastically deteriorated while in detention.
The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:
i. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and that of all human rights defenders in Bahrain;
ii. Release Mr. Nabeel Rajab immediately and unconditionally, as his detention is arbitrary and its conditions amount to ill-treatment and are endangering his life;
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 Articles 1,Article 6 (c) and 12.2;
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
• 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: email@example.com
• Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• H.E. Ahmed Mohammed Yousif Aldoseri, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Kingdom of Belgium, Fax: 0032 (0) 26472274; E-mail: Brussels.email@example.com
Please also write to diplomatic representations of Bahrain in your respective countries.