Bahrain: Nabeel Rajab was refused non-custodial sentence

Urgent Appeal

New information
BHR 006 / 0812 / OBS 048.33
Ill-treatment /
Arbitrary detention
September 17, 2019

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint 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.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continuing arbitrary detention and the ill-treatment of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Deputy Secretary General of FIDH, Founding Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), and a member of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) Middle East and North Africa Advisory Committee.

According to the information received, on September 17, 2019, Manama’s High Court of Appeal rejected Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s request to overturn previous court decisions and replace his prison sentences by non-custodial ones [1].

Furthermore, the Observatory has received worrying information concerning his conditions of detention. Indeed, since the beginning of September 2019, Mr. Nabeel Rajab, who is detained in Jaw prison, has been transferred from a cell where he was kept along other human rights defenders to a cell with nine other prisoners convicted for prostitution. This treatment goes against Rule 11c of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules), which states that prisoners should be kept in different parts of the prison according to – among others - their criminal record and the legal reason of their detention, and that civil prisoners should be separated from persons detained for criminal offences. Such treatment qualifies as degrading treatment as the aim is clearly to humiliate or debase Mr. Rajab.

The Observatory recalls that Mr. Nabeel Rajab is arbitrarily detained since June 13, 2016 and is serving seven years in prison in relation to two different criminal cases linked to his human rights activities. On January 15, 2018, the Court of Cassation upheld a two-year sentence against him for television interviews he gave in 2015 and 2016 for which he was convicted of “spreading false news and rumors about the internal situation in the Kingdom, which undermines the State’s prestige and status”. On December 31, 2018, the Court of Cassation upheld a five-year sentence for a Tweet Mr. Nabeel Rajab published in March 2015 denouncing the torture of prisoners in Jaw prison and the killing of civilians by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, for which he was convicted of “disseminating false rumors in time of war”, “offending a foreign country” (Saudi Arabia) and “insulting a statutory body”.

In the past several months Mr. Rajab’s legal team has appealed to the courts to suspend the sentence against him or to convert it to a non-custodial sentence, or a form of community service, but all their efforts were rejected.

The Observatory welcomes the National Human Rights Institute delegation’s visit to Mr. Nabeel Rajab, that took place on September 12, 2019, and hopes this visit will lead to improvements in Mr. Rajab’s conditions of detention. The Observatory is still deeply concerned about the ill-treatment and ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and urges the authorities of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release him. In the meantime, they should guarantee in all circumstances his physical integrity and psychological well-being.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Bahrain asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and all other human rights defenders in Bahrain;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Nabeel Rajab and put an end to all threats and acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all the human rights defenders in Bahrain;

iii. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1, 11 and 12;

iv. 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 : +973 17 21 05 75;
• 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:
• H.E. Mr. Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri, Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email:
• H.E. Ahmed Mohammed Yousif Aldoseri, Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Kingdom of Belgium, Fax: +32 (0) 26472274; E-mail:

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

Paris-Geneva, September 17, 2019

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

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is 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.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail:
• 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] Indeed, Bahrain introduced in May 2018 an “alternative punishment law” allowing its courts to convert prison terms into non-custodial sentences, such as community service, electronic monitoring or repairing criminal damage, if the court determines that the defendant will not commit a new “crime” in the future.

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