The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the release 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] .

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 November 2, 2014, the Third Lower Criminal Court Jaber Al Jazarordered Mr. Rajab’s release but barred him from leaving the country. The court announced that the verdict would be issued on January 20, 2015.

During the court hearing three representatives from foreign embassies and two representatives from NGOs were allowed to attend. Six relatives of Mr. Nabeel Rajab were not allowed in.

At first, the judge at the end of the court hearing decided to release Mr. Rajab without measures restricting his movement. But hours after the court hearing was over, a request from the prosecution said to include “evidence” that Mr. Rajab plans to leave the country was submitted to the Judge, who decided to ban Mr. Rajab from leaving the country. Mr. Rajab and his lawyer were not notified of the prosecution’s request nor shown the so-called “evidence” brought by the prosecution, and were not given the opportunity to respond to the prosecution request or challenge the so called “evidence” brought by the prosecution before the Judge issued his decision.

Mr. Nabeel Rajab is still 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[2]. The charge concerns various tweets posted on Nabeel Rajab’s account, which the Public Prosecution has deemed as insulting to the Ministry of Interior and the Bahraini Defence Force, the Bahraini army[3] .

Mr.Rajab defence included amongst others, challenging the validity of the complaint filed by the Bahrain Defence Forces (BDF) for procedural defect, as it was presented by the head of the military judiciary while the law stipulates that the relevant person should be the Commandor in Chief of the BDF.

During the October-19 hearing, Mr. Rajab’s lawyer raised this procedural irregularity and asked that this complaint be dismissed. The prosecution subsequently tried to correct this procedural defect, by submitting a letter from the Commandor in Chief of the BDF mandating the head of the military judiciary with relevant powers to file the complaint. At the November-2 hearing, Mr. Rajab’s lawyer argued that the investigations conducted by the prosecution over this complaint stand void and are not susceptibleof any rectification.

The Observatory welcomes the release of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and thanks all the individuals, institutions, and organisations who intervened in his favour. However, the Observatory regrets that he was arbitrarily detained for more than a month before being released.

The Observatory more generally urges the Bahraini authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – 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[4]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?".

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. On August 23, 2012, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was acquitted by theHigher Appeal Court.

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 pacific 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 one relates to on chargesof “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 one 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 thus sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to one year imprisonment for each of these three cases.

In December 2012, the Appeals Court reduced the sentence to two years imprisonment. Mr. Nabeel Rajab completed his sentence and was released on May 24, 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 on charge of “insulting a public institution” via Twitter. The investigation concerned certain tweets he published on Twitter, which the CID alleged were insulting 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 again before the Public Prosecution Officer in Manama and informed that the Ministry of Defence had filed a complaint regarding the same tweet, which is the subject matter of the previous investigation. The interrogation lasted about 40 minutes.

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.

Actions requested:

The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:

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

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”.

4. 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.

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Paris-Geneva, November 5, 2014.

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.

https://www.fidh.org/en/north-africa-middle-east/bahrain/16409-bahrain-provisional-release-of-mr-nabeel-rajab

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[1] Mr. Rajab is also a member of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division and Chair of CARAM Asia.
[2] Article 216 of the Penal Code provides for a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment. However, during the October-19 hearing, the Prosecution made an oral statement to ask the judge to consider Mr. Rajab as a “recidivist” in the light of the repetition of the alleged “crime”, and that aggravated circumstances should be retained, to double the maximum penalty applicable to him, meaning six years.
[3] See Background information and Urgent Appeal of October 19 and October 21 .
[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nENlacyy3Sw&feature=youtu.be