Sentencing and continued arbitrary detention of Nabeel Rajab

15/05/2015
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The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the sentencing and continued arbitrary detention 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 048.16

Sentencing / Arbitrary detention
Bahrain
May 15, 2015

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 sentencing and continued arbitrary detention 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.

According to the information received, on May 14, 2015, the Bahrain Criminal Court of Appeal upheld the six-month prison sentence issued by a lower court on January 20, 2015 against Mr. Rajab on charges of “insulting public institutions and the army” via Twitter (the “terrorism tweet” case).

Mr. Rajab currently remains in solitary confinement in Isa Town Police Station. The Observatory recalls that Mr. Rajab faces additional charges in two other cases.

The Observatory denounces the new sentencing and continued arbitrary detention of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release, as he is targeted solely for his human rights activities.

The Observatory, more generally, urges the Bahraini authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment against Mr. Rajab, and to comply with relevant international human rights standards and instruments, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998.

Background information :

Mr. Rajab has faced continuous judicial harassment for his legitimate human rights work since his first arrest in June 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. 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 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 for “insulting a public institution” via Twitter. The case is 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 October 9, 2014, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was informed that the Ministry of Defence had filed a complaint regarding the same tweet. 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” via Twitter pursuant to Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code. Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s lawyers appealed the sentence. Appeal hearings were held by the Bahrain Criminal Court of Appeal on February 11, March 4 and 15, April 5 and May 4.

In 2015, other criminal charges have been brought against Mr. Rajab. On February 26, 2015, Mr. Rajab was summoned for investigations in a different case 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.

On April 2, 2015, at 4:00 pm, over twenty police cars surrounded Mr. Rajab’s house and policemen arrested him on charges of “spreading false news”. The arrest relates to a tweet from Mr. Rajab denouncing the torture of detainees at Jaw Prison. Mr. Rajab was then sent to the General Directorate of Anti Corruption 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 in the presence of his lawyers by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) regarding two new charges brought against him. The first charge is “insulting a statutory body” (Article 216 of the Bahraini Criminal 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 is “disseminating false rumours in time of war” (Article 133 of the Bahraini Criminal 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, Mr. Rajab was brought before the Public Prosecution, in the presence of his lawyers. The Prosecution ordered seven days detention pending investigation. On April 5, 2015, security police confiscated all electronics 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 with “disseminating false news in time of war, which may undermine preparations and war operations”, as well as with “openly discrediting a statutory entity”. The Public Prosecution subsequently extended his detention for an additional fifteen days, pending the reception of a report currently prepared by the Ministry of Interior regarding the items seized from Mr. Rajab’s house after his arrest, when the security forces raided his house and seized mobile phones, laptops and other electronic devices. On May 11, the Bahraini High Court extended Nabeel Rajab´s preventive detention for 15 days.

Actions requested :

The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to :

i. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Nabeel Rajab, as he is targeted solely for his human rights activities ;

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

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 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”.

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.

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 : 00973 17 21 05 75 ; ofd@mofa.gov.bh
• Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Tel : +973 175 133 00 ; 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
• H.E. Ahmed Mohammed Yousif Aldoseri, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Kingdom of Belgium, Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Avenue Louise 250, 1050 Brussels, Belgium ; Fax : 0032 (0) 26472274 ; E-mail : Brussels.mission@mofa.gov.bh
Please also write to diplomatic representations of Bahrain in your respective countries.
***

Paris-Geneva, May 15, 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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