Bahrain: Acquittal of Nabeel Rajab in one case but arbitrary detention and judicial harassment continue

Urgent Appeal
Archive photo from February 2012

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the acquittal of 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[1], in one of the cases brought against him, but recalls that the latter remains arbitrarily detained on the basis of three other sentences related to three other cases.

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:

According to the information received, on August 23, 2012, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was acquitted by the Higher Appeal Court in relation to a case brought against him for allegedly “libelling the residents of Al Muharraq” after a tweet he posted on his Twitter account on June 2, 2012 (see background information). He had been sentenced by the 5th Lower Criminal Court to three months imprisonment on July 9, 2012, and had appealed the sentence.

The Observatory is however gravely concerned about Mr. Rajab’s statements made in court today, according to which he was subjected to psychological and physical torture while in detention.

The Observatory welcomes this decision, but strongly condemns his ongoing arbitrary detention, as he was sentenced on August 16, 2012 to three years’ imprisonment in three other cases brought against him for preparation of and participation in unauthorised marches (see background information).

The Observatory calls for his immediate and unconditional release, as his judicial harassment and ongoing arbitrary detention merely aim at hindering his human rights activities. The Observatory also recalls that acts of torture and ill-treatment are criminal offences that should be duly sanctioned according to law.

The Observatory more generally urges the Bahraini authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment against Mr. Rajab, and to comply with the relevant international norms and standards, in particular the United Nations (UN) Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, and international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.

Background information:

On July 9, 2012, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was arrested by masked police officers at his house[2] after he had tweeted the following on June 2: "Khalifa, leave the residents of Al Muharraq, its Sheikhs and its elderly. Everyone knows that you are not popular here, and if it wasn’t for the subsidies, they wouldn’t have gone out to welcome you. When will you step down?".

See video on the arrest of Nabeel Rajab on july 9. Source:

On the same day, the 5th Lower Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Rajab to three months imprisonment for allegedly libelling the residents of Al Muharraq through tweets posted on his twitter account.

Following this sentence, on August 12, the Higher Appeal Court called to the stand the only police officer responsible for the investigation of this case. The purpose of the hearing was to identify the possible existence of proofs that Mr. Nabeel Rajab was indeed the author of that tweet. During the questioning, inconsistencies were noted in the statements of the police officer. The latter stated in particular that he was not the technical expert to determine whether Mr. Rajab was the author of the tweet, and that he did not personally possess such proofs. The judge was expected to issue the verdict on August 16, 2012, but on that day, the hearing was postponed to August 23, 2012.

On August 16, 2012, the Lower Criminal Court had also sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to three years imprisonment. Mr. Rajab appeared before the Court for three cases related to his participation in peaceful gatherings in favour of fundamental freedoms and democracy:

 The first case relates to charges of “participating in an illegal assembly” and “calling others to join”, in relation to a protest organised on March 31, 2012 in Manama to denounce the detention of the founder of GCHR, former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), and former MENA Director at Front Line, Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.

 The second case relates to on charges of “involvement in illegal practices and incitement to gatherings and calling for unauthorised marches through social networking sites” for a protest in Manama on January 12, 2012.

 The third case on relates to charges of “participating in an illegal assembly” in relation to several protests that took place in Manama in February 2012.

The Court sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to one year imprisonment for each of these three cases.

In total, five cases were brought against Mr. Rajab over the past months.

Actions requested:

The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:

i. Release Mr. Nabeel Rajab immediately and unconditionally as his detention is arbitrary since it seems to merely sanction his human rights activities;

ii. Order a thorough, impartial and effective investigation into the alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment mentioned above, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law;

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

v. 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”.

vi. 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, Tel: +973 172 27 555; Fax : +973 172 12 6032
· Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Tel: +973 175 31 333; Fax: +973 175 31 284
· Lt. Gen. Cheikh Rashed bin Abdulla AL KHALIFA, Minister of Interior, Tel: +973 17572222 and +973 17390000. Email:
· Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 chemin Jacques-Attenville, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email:

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


Paris-Geneva, August 23, 2012

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:

· 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] Mr. Rajab is also a member of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division and Chair of CARAM Asia.


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