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Bahrain delays court date for human rights campaigner for third time

On Monday, 5 September a Bahraini court delayed the trial of Index award-winning human rights campaigner Nabeel Rajab for a third time. The new trial date is now 6 October 2016.

“Once again, Bahrain’s repression of freedom of expression is on display for all the world to see. Nabeel has committed no crimes. He is held for expressing opinions that people around the world take for granted. We ask Bahrain to end its judicial harassment of Nabeel and renew our call for UK Prime Minister Theresa May to urge Nabeel’s release,” Jodie Ginsberg, CEO, Index on Censorship said.

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Bahrain brings new charges against man believed to be top democracy activist

Bahrain prosecutors on Monday filed new charges against a man believed by rights activists to be the Gulf state's most prominent jailed democracy campaigner, Nabeel Rajab, after the New York Times published an op-ed under his byline.

The prosecutor of the Gulf state's northern region, Mohammed Salah, said a man had been questioned over a complaint from the cybercrime unit accusing him of "publishing a column in a foreign newspaper in which he deliberately broadcast news, statements and false rumors that undermine the kingdom's prestige and stature".

Salah did not identify the man or name the newspaper, but a rights group and a lawyer said the statement clearly referred to Rajab, who had been in jail since June on charges related to anti-government tweets published last year, including one accusing the security forces of torturing detainees.

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Prominent Rights Activist Charged for New York Times Letter

On 5 September the Bahrain’s Public Prosecutor today charged prominent human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, after the New York Times published his letter from prison. Mr. Rajab has been held in detention on charges related to his online freedom of expression since 13 June and is already facing 15 years’ imprisonment. The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and Index on Censorship condemn all the charges against Mr. Rajab and call for his immediate release.

On 4 September, the New York Times published a letter Mr. Rajab’s, written during his time in detention. In the letter, he claims that he was threatened into silence after being released from detention in July 2015. He also exposed how a meeting with the US Secretary of State John Kerry led to him being interrogated by Bahrain’s cyber crimes unit.

Mr. Rajab was called into interrogation by the Criminal Investigations Directorate on 4 September and questioned by officials regarding the article. He was further interrogated today by the Public Prosecutor. He was denied access to a lawyer on both occasions.

statement published by the Public Prosecution Office today announced that Mr. Rajab has been charged with “intentionally broadcasting false news and malicious rumours abroad impairing the prestige of the state”. The charge could lead to an additional one-year prison sentence.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said, “Anyone can read the words of Nabeel Rajab on the New York Times to see how pathetic this charge--which is completely contrary to the principle of free expression--is. During a time where authorities are punishing anyone with a contrary opinion, its attacks on the most basic universal freedoms have only caused further instability”.

The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy spoke to Mr. Rajab’s lawyers who stated that the Public Prosecution refused to allow them to attend the interrogation. Despite inquiring about the interrogation at the Public Prosecution office, while Mr. Rajab was there being interrogated, officials denied that he was being questioned. The lawyer was not informed of Mr. Rajab’s interrogation by the Criminal Investigation Directorate.

Jodie Ginsberg, the CEO of Index on Censorship said, "Index on Censorship is appalled at this latest move by Bahrain to suppress Nabeel Rajab's free speech. Bahrain's allies - especially the United Kingdom - need to speak out now, publicly condemn this charge and call for Nabeel's immediate release."

Since 2011, Mr. Rajab has faced multiple prosecutions and prison sentences for his vocal activism. He was placed on a travel ban in 2014 and has been unable to leave the country. He faces other charges of “insulting a statutory body”, “insulting a neighbouring country”, and “disseminating false rumours in time of war”. These are in relation to remarks he tweeted and retweeted on Twitter in 2015 about torture at Bahrain's Jau prison and the humanitarian crisis caused by the Saudi-led war in Yemen. He may face up to 16 years in prison if convicted.  His trial was postponed again today to 6 October 2016 for ruling and the judge refused renewed requests to release him. At the court Rajab informed the sitting judge that he considered the charges against him "malicious" and that his arrest came as consequences of his meeting with John Kerry.

Husain Abdulla, the Executive Director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain said, “The entire case against Nabeel Rajab has been a sham from the start, and this new charge further shows it to be nothing but an attack against free peaceful expression. Its time for Washington to send a strong message to its ally that it will not tolerate such blatant repression by suspending all arms sales with the Al Khalifa regime”.

As a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Bahrain has an obligation to uphold individuals’ rights to freedom of expression. This includes free expression online. Everyone accused of crimes must also be afforded the right to a fair trial including access to a lawyer. Access to justice is a basic principle of the rule of law and all persons should be entitled to access a lawyer of their choice at all stages of judicial proceedings.

The Human Rights Council should act now to prevent further human rights violations in Bahrain

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council

 

Your excellencies,

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) writes you to urge your delegation to address the lack of accountability for ongoing violations in Bahrain and to contribute to prevent further human rights violations in the country, in the framework of the Council’s mandate, during the upcoming 33th session of the UN Human Rights Council. In light of the ongoing crackdown on free voices and dissents in Bahrain, on a level unprecedented since the 14 February 2011 pro-democracy movement in Bahrain, it is crucial for the Human Rights Council to step up its ability to monitor the serious human rights violations that are committed in Bahrain and prevent a further deterioration of the human rights situation.

In September 2015, 33 States signed a joint declaration in which they emphasized the need for the Government to substantively address human rights violations. More recently, both, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Bin Ra’ad, and the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng have expressed serious concerns over the human rights situation in Bahrain. They called on the Bahraini authorities to de-escalate the situation to prevent the further increase of tensions. On 16 August, a group of five Special Procedures has urged the Government to stop systematic harassment, arbitrary arrests, and summons of peaceful dissidents, human rights defenders and Shia clerics and “to enter into dialogue with all relevant parties in order to prevent unnecessary conflict and violence”.

Meaningful Human Rights Council action on the crisis in Bahrain is long overdue. In the face of the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation, the Human Rights Council should speak out strongly against the current crackdown and adopt a resolution during its upcoming 33th session to:

  • fulfil its preventive mandate and express its deep concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain
  • request the High Commissioner to update the Council at its 34th session on the human rights situation in Bahrain
  • call on the Government to fully implement accepted UPR recommendations and other human rights commitments taken by the Bahraini authorities and reporting to the Council on their implementation
  • recognize the role of Bahraini civil society and human rights defenders to promote human rights and dialogue in the country
  • call on the unconditional release of Nabeel Rajab and urge the Bahraini authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee his physical and psychological integrity and security.                                                                                                                     

Daily reports received by BCHR clearly indicate that the situation is deteriorating for all Bahraini citizens and that the Shia population continue to experience systematic persecutions: Freedom of expression and association are compromised, human rights defenders, opposition, journalists and activists are increasingly imprisoned on baseless charges. Human rights defenders and activists, including those seeking to cooperate with the Human Rights Council, have been the subject of escalating harassments, travel bans and reprisals. Women’s rights have been also restricted in the last months with increased targeting of women right’s defenders and new regulations adopted that contains provisions that would restrict women from leaving the country without their guardian's’ permission.

As the High Commissioner noted “Repression will not eliminate people’s grievances; it will increase them”. It is the Council’s responsibility to bring attention to human rights violations occurring in Bahrain. We urge your delegation to echo the call of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and to ensure that a monitoring mechanism will be established to respond to the current crisis in Bahrain.

Lawyer Al-Tajer: If Government Remains Stubborn it Will Lead Bahrain to the Unknown

Lawyer and rights activist Mohammed al-Tajer said that the Bahraini authorities do not only treat pro-opposition Bahrainis arbitrarily, but they rather treat the entire nation with a sense of superiority and arrogance, taking with measures, and making laws and decisions that are not good for the conduct and progress of a state living in the 21st century.

 

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Bahrain: Release Rights Activist, Lift Travel Bans

Bahrain should immediately stop the prosecution of prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who faces up to 15 years in prison solely for charges that violate his right to free expression. Rajab’s trial resumes on September 5, 2016, on charges that include criticism of Bahrain’s participation in Saudi Arabia-led military operations in Yemen. Authorities have rejected repeated requests to release him on bail.

Bahraini authorities have also prevented three of Rajab’s colleagues at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) from leaving, one of whom was planning to attend the upcoming United Nations Human Rights Council meetings that begin in Geneva on September 13. Nedal al-Salman, BCHR’s head of international relations, told Human Rights Watch that on August 29, officials at Bahrain International Airport told her that a public prosecutor had imposed a travel ban on her after earlier banning two of her colleagues from leaving.

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Letter From a Bahraini Jail

Riffa, Bahrain I write this from a Bahraini jail cell where I have been detained, largely in isolation, since the beginning of summer. This is not new to me: I have been here before, from 2012 to 2014, in 2015, and now again, all because of my work as a human rights defender.

Nor am I alone: There are some 4,000 political prisoners in Bahrain, which has the highest prison population per capita in the Middle East. This is a country that has subjected its people to imprisonment, torture and even death for daring to desire democracy. My close colleague Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was tortured and sentenced to life in prison in 2011 for his human rights work.

 

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Bahrain: London stands in solidarity with Nabeel Rajab on his birthday

On 1 September, English PEN joined fellow organisations and friends of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab to mark his 52nd birthday with a protest at the Embassy of Bahrain in London. Representatives of Amnesty International, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy,  FIDH, Index on Censorship, and Redress were among those in attendance, all jointly calling on the Bahraini government to release Rajab immediately and unconditionally.

Following his most recent arrest in June 2016, Nabeel Rajab is facing up to 15 years in prison, accused of spreading ‘false or malicious news’, ‘offending a foreign country’ and ‘offending a statutory body’ through his condemnation of the conditions in Bahrain’s infamous Jau Prison. His trial hearing is due to take place on 5 September.

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Arrested by a U.S. ally over tweets: NGOs call for freedom of Bahraini rights activist Nabeel Rajab

A prominent human rights activist in a U.S.-allied country faces up to 15 years in prison because of his tweets.

Since the 2011 pro-democracy uprising in the Gulf monarchy Bahrain, which was violently crushed by 2,000 Saudi and Emirati troops, Rajab has been arrested numerous times for his human rights work and peaceful activism.

On June 13, 2016, Rajab was again arrested, in what rights groups describe in the new letter as an attack on “his peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression.”

Dozens of non-governmental organizations sent a letter to Bahraini King Hamad al-Khalifa on Friday, calling for the release of activist Nabeel Rajab

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Bahrain NGOs Condemn Reprisals against HRDs for UN Engagement

2 September 2016—In the past two weeks, the Bahraini government has prevented a number of human rights defenders from travelling abroad, among them were three members of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). Nearly 30 activists have been banned from travel since June. We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the Government of Bahrain’s use of arbitrary travel bans against human rights defenders and activists.

Bahrain has imposed travel bans against activists ahead of the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) this month. While preparing to join a human right workshop abroad, BCHR’s Enas Oun was barred from travelling on 22 August. The next day, Husain Radhi, another BCHR member, was blocked from exiting Bahrain, continuing his travel restriction since he attempted to travel to the HRC in June. BCHR’s Nedal al-Salman was barred from travel on 29 August when attempting to travel to Geneva for advocacy ahead of the 33rd HRC session, which begins in September.

In June, Bahraini officials barred 13 activists from travelling outside the country, at least eight of whom had been travelling Geneva to participate in 32nd Session of the HRC. Some of these activists had attended UN workshops held in Bahrain on engaging with UN mechanisms. These arbitrary measures to restrict human rights defenders’ and activists’ freedom of movement therefore represent an act of reprisal against them for their attempted engagement with the Council and for cooperating with UN mechanisms.

While travel bans have been used before to limit the movement of high-profile activists, including Nabeel Rajab and religious freedoms defender Sheikh Maytham al-Salman, the Government of Bahrain recently began to employ them systematically. We have documented four other incidents in late August. These include human rights lawyer Mohammad al-Tajer on 23 August, and activists Ebtisam al-Sayegh and Ahmed al-Saffar, both on 27 August. Al-Sayegh and al-Tajer had previously been banned from travel June and July 2016 respectively. Other activists banned from travel included trade unionist Jalila al-Salmanactivist Taha Al-Durazi and journalist Nazeeha Saeed. Al-Durazi is currently being prosecuted for “illegal gathering” alongside religious freedoms campaigner Sheikh Maytham al-Salman, who has been on travel ban since 2015.

“What we are witnessing is an organized effort to silence civil society by the Bahraini authorities,” stated Husain Abdulla, Executive Director for Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain. “Bahrain’s actions are a rejection of both the United Nations and its international human rights commitments. The international community should not tolerate such harassment and reprisals.”

In addition to preventing Bahrainis from engaging with international human rights mechanisms, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister has made a number of disturbing comments in regards to the Human Rights Council (HRC) and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights himself. In August, Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifa stated: “the Kingdom of Bahrain does not care about any voice that seeks to blackmail it from abroad, and particularly the Human Rights Council.” And, following criticism about the kingdom’s rising repression from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein, the Foreign Ministerresponded on Twitter: “We will not allow the undermining of our security and stability and will not waste our time listening to the words of a high commissioner who is powerless.”

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy: “The Foreign Minister’s insults to the UN human rights mechanisms illustrate Bahrain’s disregard of international human rights norms and reflects the escalating crisis in the country. It is proof that Bahrain intends to continue its repression. The UN must take action to show that harassing human rights defenders is unacceptable.”

Therefore, we, the undersigned NGOs, call on the Government of Bahrain to:

  • immediately and unconditionally lift the travel bans imposed on civil society activists and allow them to freely engage with the UN; and
  • Stop all reprisal actions against human rights defenders who work with the UN mechanisms and allow them to work freely.
  • Respect the freedom of movement of all Bahrainis.

We call on United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to:

  • Suspend all technical programs with Bahrain until the full rights and safety of all human rights defenders and activists, including participants of these programs, are effectively guaranteed.

 

Signatories:

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD)

European Centre for Democracy & Human Rights (ECDHR)