Bahrain : Ongoing judicial harassment of Mr. Nabeel Rajab

06/03/2015
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The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the judicial harassment of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), FIDH Deputy Secretary General and a member of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division.

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

New Information
BHR 001 / 0812 / OBS 048.14
Judicial harassment
Bahrain
March 5, 2015

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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 judicial harassment of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), FIDH Deputy Secretary General and a member of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division.

On March 4, 2015, the Criminal Court of Appeal held a hearing in the case against Mr. Rajab’s lawyers for “insulting public institutions via twitter” pursuant to Article 216 of the Criminal Code .

The defence team argued that the criminal complaint lodged against Mr. Rajab by the Head of Military Judiciary was not valid as he had no legal capacity to lodge such a complaint, thus the investigation by the Public Prosecution based on that complaint would be void as well as the proceedings. The defence team also argued that the tweets did not include any so called “insults” to the Ministry of Interior of Bahrain Defence Force, and that Article 216 of the Penal Code under which Mr. Rajab is charged would be unconstitutional. They further added that Mr. Rajab was exercising his right to freedom of expression, and that he was targeted for his human rights activities and his criticisms of the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain.

The defence lawyers also requested the lift of the travel ban, imposed on Mr Rajab since November 2, 2014. Though no objection was raised by the Public Prosecution representative, the Court decided to adjourn the case to March 15, 2015, to issue its judgement while maintaining the travel ban in place.

The Observatory strongly condemns the judicial harassment against Mr. Rajab, which only aims at sanctioning his legitimate human rights activities and calls on the authorities to drop all charges held against him, and put an immediate end to this judicial harassment.

The Observatory recalls that Mr. Rajab has been facing continuous judicial harassment since 2012.

Background information :

On July 9, 2012, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was arrested by masked police officers at his house in relation to a tweet posted on June 2, 2012. On the same day, the 5th Lower Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Rajab 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. Nabeel Rajab was acquitted by the Higher Appeal Court.

On August 16, 2012, the Lower Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to three years of imprisonment in relation to three cases related to his participation in pacific gatherings in favour of fundamental freedoms and democracy :
- the first case related 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 one related to charges of “involvement in illegal practices and incitement to gatherings and calling for unauthorised marches through social networking sites” in relation to a demonstration organised in Manama on January 12, 2012 ;
- the third one related to charges of “participating in an illegal assembly” in relation to several demonstrations that took place in Manama in February 2012.

In December 2012, the Appeals Court reduced the sentence to two years of imprisonment. Mr. Nabeel Rajab completed his sentence and was released in June 2014.

On October 1, 2014, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was summoned by the General Directorate of Anti-corruption and Economic and Electronic Security of the Criminal Investigation Department for “insulting a public institution” via Twitter. The investigation concerned tweets he posted on his account, which the CID deemed insulting for the Ministry of Interior, pursuant to Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code. The CID decided to detain Mr. Rajab overnight before presenting him to the Public Prosecution on October 2 for further investigation. The Public Prosecution decided to keep Mr. Rajab under arrest for 7 days, pending further investigations.

On October 9, 2014, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was brought before the Public Prosecution Officer in Manama and informed that the Ministry of Defence had filed a complaint regarding the same tweet. Mr. Rajab reiterated his previous position denying all allegations against him and stressing that he was only exercising his freedom of expression in regard to a matter forming part of a large public debate and an open discussion in the local press, social networks and even in Bahraini officials’ public statements. The same day the Public Prosecution ordered the continued detention of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and decided to refer the case for trial before the Third Lower Criminal Court.

On October 19, 2014, the Third Lower Criminal Court started the trial against Mr. Nabeel Rajab. The hearing was suspended to October 29 and then November 2 for the verdict.

On November 2, 2014, the Third Lower Criminal Court ordered Mr. Rajab’s release but barred him from leaving the country. During the court hearing, three representatives from foreign embassies and two representatives from NGOs were allowed to attend. Six relatives of Nabeel Rajab were not allowed in. At first, the judge decided to release Mr. Rajab without measures restricting his movement. But after a motion of the prosecution providing “evidence” that Mr. Rajab had plans for travelling, the judge decided to keep him in probation and banned him from leaving the country until the next court hearing. Mr. Rajab and his lawyer were not informed of the “evidence” brought by the prosecution, and were not given the opportunity to challenge this decision.

On January 20, 2015, the Third Lower Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to six months of imprisonment on charges of “insulting public institutions and the army” via Twitter pursuant to Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code. Mr. Rajab’s lawyers paid a bail of 200 Bahraini dinars and appealed the sentence. However, the judge barred him from leaving the country pending the appeal.

On February 26, 2015, Mr. Rajab received a summoning order to the Hamad Town police station for charges of “inciting hatred towards the regime”. On March 1, 2015, Mr. Rajab went to the police station where he was interrogated about a speech he made in February 2011. Mr. Rajab denied all accusations, and his lawyers called for the accusations to be dropped. Upon completion of the police investigation the Public Prosecution will decide whether or not to press charges against Mr. Rajab .

Actions requested :

The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to :

i. 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 ;

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

iii. 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.

Addresses :

• 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 : info@interior.gov.bh
• 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 : info@bahrain-mission.ch

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

***
Paris-Geneva, March 5, 2015

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.

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