12 December 2012

The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain center for human Rights (BCHR) express grave concern about the ruling by the court of appeal which passes a two-year in prison sentence on the President of the BCHR, Director of the GCHR, and Deputy Director for the International Federation for Human Rights, Mr. Nabeel Rajab, for the mere exercise of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. The Appeal Court ruling represents an explicitly political decision which proves once again that the government of Bahrain continues to use the politically oriented judiciary to create false cases against human rights defenders and activists. Mr. Rajab has been imprisoned since July 9th 2012 as part of a judicial harassment campaign aimed at preventing him from continuing his legitimate and peaceful work as a human rights defender.

Mr. Rajab was initially imprisoned for a tweet he made which was critical of the Bahraini government. He has only used peaceful means to defend the rights of the people in Bahrain and the tweet was an exercise of his freedom of expression which shows the peaceful nature of his activities as a human rights defender. On the 9th of July 2012 he was fined $800 and sentenced to three months in prison. While serving this sentence, Mr. Rajab was sentenced on the 16th of August 2012 to three years in prison for advocating peaceful demonstrations to defend the civil and human rights of all the citizens in the country. It is these charges which were reviewed by the Appeal Court, as the charges related to the tweet were overturned on August 23rd 2012.

During the Appeal Court hearings the defense team has faced many obstacles such as:

• International experts who were introduced to the court as defense witnesses denied entry at Bahrain international airport;

• Altered video submitted as an evidence by the pubic prosecution office;

• Insufficient evidences submitted by pubic prosecution office

• The defense team denied access to the evidences submitted by the prosecution.

In addition to the above obstacles faced by the defense team during the hearings, Mr. Rajab has suffered severe and inhumane conditions during his detention. At various stages, he has been subjected to the following forms of ill-treatment:

• Arbitrary solitary confinement;

• Housed in a cell with dead animals;

• Denied access to his family;

• Denied access to newspapers;

• Repeated strip-searches and other intentionally humiliating searches;

• Forced to repeatedly stand and sit, despite a herniated disc in his back;

• Only allowed six liters of water per week, although he suffers from gallbladder stones and has been recommended by a doctor to drink a big amount of water every day.

The GCHR and BCHR believe that Nabeel Rajab has been targeted by a campaign of judicial harassment due to his legitimate and peaceful work in the defense of human rights and the exercise of freedom to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in accordance to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Furthermore, his continued imprisonment is a result of the unwillingness of the authorities to start a real reform in the country in addition to the silence of the international community.

The GCHR and BCHR call for the immediate release of leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab as well as all other detained human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in Bahrain. The government of Bahrain must drop all the politically motivated charges against Nabeel Rajab and other detained activists.