BAHRAIN: Court should drop spurious charges against Nabeel Rajab on 20 January

Urgent Appeal
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Paris-Geneva, January 16, 2014. The Bahraini authorities must immediately drop all charges against Nabeel Rajab and put an end to the continued judicial harassment against him said today the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. The Observatory is a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).

On 20 January, 2015, the Third Lower Criminal Court is expected to announce the verdict against Mr. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and FIDH Deputy Secretary General. Mr. Nabeel Rajab is facing the charge of “insulting a public institution and the army” via Twitter, pursuant to Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code, an offence punishable by up to six years of imprisonment [1]. This charge concerns various tweets posted on Nabeel Rajab’s account, which the Public Prosecution has deemed insulting to the Ministry of Interior, the Bahraini Defence Force, and the Bahraini army [2].

The charges against Nabeel Rajab are completely unfounded as they fall under his legitimate right to freedom of expression. The sanction of fundamental rights in Bahrain must be put to an end immediately ”, declared Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

The Observatory recalls that the trial is marred by procedural irregularities which have been repeatedly brought to the attention of the Court by defence lawyers [3]. Furthermore, the Observatory deeply regrets that, again, the Bahraini authorities failed to respond to the Observatory’s visa applications made to facilitate a trial observation of the hearing scheduled for 20 January.

The ongoing judicial harassment of Nabeel Rajab illustrates Bahrain’s failure to live up to its human rights commitments. It is about time that all charges are dropped and Nabeel Rajab is allowed to carry out his legitimate human rights activities ”, concluded OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.

The Observatory recalls that Nabeel Rajab was already arbitrarily detained in 2012 and sentenced to two years imprisonment as a result of his legitimate human rights activities. In 2013, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had declared his detention arbitrary.

The Observatory urges diplomatic missions in Bahrain and all relevant stakeholders to attend and monitor the hearing, and call on the Bahraini authorities to immediately drop all charges held against him in compliance with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments ratified by Bahrain.

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