Bahrain: Only Independent Newspaper Shut Down
Bahrain must end worsening human rights clampdown, UN experts say
GENEVA (16 June 2017) - A group of United Nations human rights experts has urged the Government of Bahrain to halt its orchestrated crackdown on civil society.
“Over the past year, there has been a sharp deterioration of the human rights situation in the country,” the experts* said. “This has included unacceptable restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, aimed at muzzling any discordant voice and suppressing dissent.”
Read the statement here.
Arbitrary pre-trial detention of Nabeel Rajab set to continue past one year as trials postponed
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) remains deeply concerned about the ongoing pre-trial detention of its President, Nabeel Rajab, which contravenes international standards in regard to the length of time individuals should be detained prior to legal proceedings. Nabeel Rajab, who is still hospitalized, should be released on bail on medical grounds.
Rajab’s most recent trials were on 12 and 13 June for charges relating to televised interviews given to members of the international media and comments made on social media. The trial scheduled for 12 June was postponed to the following day. On 13 June, Rajab therefore faced two trials in absentia; one in the morning for comments on social media, and in the afternoon for interviews to international media. In both cases the Court postponed Rajab’s case, he now faces trial on 2 July for interviews given to the media, and on 7 August for charges relating to comments made on social media. Rajab’s arbitrary detention is therefore set to continue. In total Rajab faces up to 18 years in prison if convicted of all the charges against him.
Rajab’s lawyers and diplomatic observers from the United Kingdom and Australia walked out of the courtroom during proceedings.
Rajab is President of BCHR, as well as Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Advisory Committee. Rajab has been relentlessly persecuted for his human rights activities and jailed repeatedly on charges in violation of his right to freedom of expression.
Rajab has been detained since his arrest on 13 June 2016. He has spent much of his time in solitary confinement in Rifa’a police station. Conditions in the jail were at times deplorable, and are thought to have contributed to the deterioration of Rajab’s health. At the time of writing Rajab remains in hospital after being admitted on 8 April for complications relating to a surgical procedure.
In May the United Nations Committee Against Torture noted with “deep concern” the arbitrary imprisonment and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, including Rajab. Fourteen human rights groups, including BCHR, BIRD and Index on Censorship wrote to UN member states urging them to call for Rajab’s release. On 13 June, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye, called for the release of Rajab. On the same day 37 MEPs called on High Representative Federica Mogherini to call for the release of Rajab. In the United States, Congressman Jim McGovern addressed congress also calling for Rajab’s release.
BCHR strongly condemns the continued detention of Rajab and calls on the government of Bahrain to release the human rights defender. BCHR further urges the international community to continue to press the Bahraini government for the release of Nabeel Rajab and all other human rights defenders that are targeted and imprisoned in Bahrain.
The world is watching - Bahrain must release Nabeel Rajab
IFEX member Nabeel Rajab has endured 1 year in pre-trial detention, with a further possibility of up to 18 years imprisonment, for exercising his right to freedom of expression.
On the 1-year anniversary of his arrest, the IFEX network calls on Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release Nabeel Rajab.
Read the article here.
MEPs call for Nabeel Rajab’s release on Arrest Anniversary
On the anniversary of Nabeel Rajab’s arrest, 36 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from different political groups sent an open letter to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, urging her to call for his immediate release.
Read the letter here.
Oral Intervention at 35th UN Human Rights Council
Address made to the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye.
Mr. President, Mr. Special Rapporteur,
I am making this statement on behalf of FIDH, OMCT Reporters Without Borders, IFEX,the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Gulf Center for Human Rights.
One year ago, on that day, Nabeel Rajab was arrested from his home, one day before he was due to participate in the UN Human Rights Council. One year on, Nabeel Rajab remains in jail; his health is gravely deteriorating, he has been subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment, denied appropriate health care and he has spent extensive periods of time in solitary confinement. And still, this Council remains silent.
Nabeel Rajab is a leading human rights defender in the Arab world, who is President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Founding Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Advisory Committee.
He has been held illegally pending trial for one year, only for expressing his opinions on social media, for tweets and retweets he made regarding the war in Yemen and allegations of torture in Bahraini prisons, in addition to media interviews. He faces up to 18 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
Last year, human rights experts, including yourself, Mr. Special Rapporteur, called on the Bahraini government for Nabeel Rajab’s immediate release, and for all charges against him relating to freedom of expression, to be dropped. A year ago there was some hope that the international community would support your call and pressure the Bahraini authorities to set him free. We are still waiting for this Council to act.
This sad anniversary comes in the context of unprecedented harassment and violent pressure directed at all critical and independent voices in the media, political parties, and trade unions, which are fighting now simply to be allowed the right of peaceful expression. The numbers of individuals arrested over charges related to free expression on the Internet and social media websites have significantly increased. Journalists, human rights defenders, bloggers, and active members of civil society have been targeted by the government, including being interrogated, sexually assaulted and tortured and forced to stop their human rights activities. Foreign members of the media are being denied entry to the country, whilst Bahraini journalists are being denied licenses to work for foreign media outlets, like Nazeeha Saeed, an award-winning Bahrain correspondent for France 24 who was recently found guilty of reporting without a license. The crackdown directed at the human rights movement and the persecution of independent, critical voices in Bahrain is not only a challenge faced by activists like Nabeel Rajab and others. It is a decisive moment as well for the cohesion and stability of Bahrain. The targets of the government are currently all those critical and independent voices standing against social violence, violent extremism, terrorism, and sectarianism.
Bahrain: UN Member and Observer States should call on Bahraini authorities to free human rights defender Nabeel Rajab
We, the undersigned, express our deep concern over the continued detention of prominent Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, on the first anniversary of his arrest. We urge you to call for his immediate release and for all charges against him to be dropped.
Nabeel Rajab was arrested on 13 June 2016. He remains detained despite a court order to release him on 28 December 2016. He faces three separate legal cases, the trials for two of which have been postponed 23 times. In all cases, Rajab is being prosecuted for exercising his right to freedom of expression and faces up to a total of 18 years behind bars.
Rajab is the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division advisory committee. Rajab has repeatedly spoken out about human rights violations in Bahrain, resulting in him being in and out of prison since 2012. In one of the three cases against him, in which he faces up to 15 years in prison, Rajab was charged in relation to his social media posts with: “insulting a statutory body”; “spreading rumours in war time”; and “insulting a neighbouring country.” In another of the three cases, Rajab faces up to three years in prison on charges of “spreading false news”, in relation to interviews given to the media. In September 2016, he was charged again with “spreading false news” after the New York Times published a letter in his name.
Rajab has spent nine and a half of the past twelve months in solitary confinement. In May 2017, the UN Committee Against Torture identified Rajab’s case of concern, and called for his release, as well as all human rights defenders and journalists detained and imprisoned for their work in Bahrain.
We are particularly concerned about Rajab’s health, which continues to deteriorate due to poor conditions and mistreatment. On Wednesday, 5 April 2017, Rajab underwent major surgery at a military hospital. Against medical advice, he was returned to his cell at East Riffa Police Station two days later. The following day he was rushed to the police clinic for emergency treatment. On 7 June, he underwent minor surgery. Rajab’s health prevents him from attending his court hearings. The presiding judge has refused all requests submitted by his lawyers to release him on bail, despite the length of his detention period in solitary confinement and clear evidence about the deteriorating condition of his health.
Urgent international pressure for Nabeel Rajab’s release is needed. We urge your delegations to call on Bahrain to end the unlawful detainment of Nabeel Rajab and to release him immediately and unconditionally. As Adam Rajab, Nabeel Rajab’s son notes: “without international pressure we will not see him walk out of prison anytime soon.”
Please accept, Excellencies, the assurances of our highest consideration,
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain
Bahrain Centre for Human Rights
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights
FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Gulf Centre for Human Rights
Index on Censorship
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights
One year on, Nabeel Rajab remains in jail, despite international appeals for his freedom
One year ago, on 13 June 2016, Nabeel Rajab was arrested from his home, one day before he was due to participate in the United Nations Human Rights Council. One year on, Nabeel Rajab remains in jail; his health has gravely deteriorated, and he has spent extensive periods of time in solitary confinement.
Nabeel Rajab is a leading human rights defender in the Arab world, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Founding Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Advisory Committee.
For 365 days Rajab has been held in detention, sometimes in squalid conditions, while awaiting trial, on charges relating to tweets and retweets made on social media related to the Saudi-led war in Yemen, and torture in Jau prison, as well as interviews he gave to foreign media outlets. Freedom of expression is a right protected by international law yet Rajab is now facing up to 18 years in prison for using his voice to alert the world about human rights abuses in the Arab region.
Since 2005, Rajab has been relentlessly persecuted for his human rights activities and jailed repeatedly on charges in violation of his right to freedom of expression, assembly and opinion. Rajab has been imprisoned multiple times since he came to the forefront of human rights activism in Bahrain. In 2011, he was briefly detained for his role in the pro-democracy protests, after being arrested in his home by dozens of masked men. He was allegedly blindfolded, handcuffed, and put in the back of a car before being verbally abused, beaten, and threatened with rape. In the following year, 2012, Rajab was jailed for two years for “calling for an illegal gathering.” In 2015, Rajab served a six-month prison sentence for “publicly insulting official institutions” on social media.
Rajab was most recently arrested on 13 June 2016 and charged with “spreading false information and malicious rumours about domestic matters, with the aim of discrediting and adversely affecting the prestige of the state,” in relation to televised interviews with the media. These charges carry a maximum sentence of three years. In another case, charges relating to tweets and retweets include “spreading rumours in wartime,” “insulting a neighbouring country” and “insulting a statutory body.” If convicted of these charges Rajab faces up to 15 years in prison. There are also pending charges for articles Rajab published in the New York Times and Le Monde while detained. The publication of these articles resulted in Rajab being taken for interrogation and new charges being brought against him. Both articles called on the international community to address the ongoing human rights abuses in Bahrain, including describing poor conditions in detention.
During this past year of detention Rajab has spent extensive periods of time in solitary confinement, and has suffered from deteriorating health, exacerbated by poor conditions in jail.
Rajab has a history of medical conditions, including hypertension, gastritis, and degenerative disk disease. During his current period of detention, Rajab has been treated for gallbladder disease; he underwent a surgical cholecystectomy due to biliary colic and recurrent abdominal pain. Most recently, on 5 April 2017, Rajab underwent surgery for bleeding ulcers. According to family members, Rajab was forced to wear dirty clothes soaked with blood and was denied access to hygiene products, despite having a deep surgical wound at risk of infection. Two days after the surgery, Rajab was returned to solitary confinement, where the unsanitary conditions increased the risk of post-surgical infection and other medical complications.
The day after he was returned to jail, Rajab became increasingly unwell, and shortly after a visit with his family, he was rushed to Qaala police clinic for emergency treatment. Rajab is receiving treatment related to complications following his surgery, after the wound became infected. At the time of writing Rajab, remains in Qaala police clinic. The clinic is not a public hospital but a division of the Ministry of Interior. Information received by BCHR indicates that Rajab’s weakened immune system is slowing the recovery process. Rajab remains under the supervision of Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) officers at all times.
The detention of Rajab is not only in violation of international regulations concerning freedom of expression and association, but also in violation of international protocols governing the rights of prisoners and detained persons. Rajab has been held in solitary confinement for extensive periods of time, and has been denied access to adequate and timely medical care on numerous occasions.
In the past year, members of the international community, including UN bodies and government delegations, have expressed concerns over the continued pre-trial detention of Rajab, the extensive use of solitary confinement, and his limited access to medical care. Most recently, the UN Committee Against Torture expressed concern over the amount of time that Rajab had been remanded in solitary confinement, stating that if used extensively solitary confinement can constitute cruel and unusual punishment, as defined by the Convention Against Torture.
In May 2017, during Bahrain’s annual UN Universal Periodic Review, UN member states expressed concern at the detention and mistreatment of human rights defenders, including Rajab. On 14 March 2017, at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council, the Swiss delegation called for the release of human rights defenders in Bahrain, including Rajab. In December 2016, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed serious concerns about the ongoing prosecution of Rajab, and called for his immediate and unconditional release. Prior to this, in October 2016, the United States State Department rejected the charges against Rajab and called for his release; this was later confirmed by then US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, who also called for his immediate release. It has also recently become known that one of the conditions attached to the US sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain by President Barack Obama was the release of Rajab.
In spite of the expression of concern, and the call for his release, issued by numerous international organisations, and governmental bodies, the Bahraini authorities continue to retain Rajab in pretrial custody, and often in solitary confinement.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights appeals for its President Nabeel Rajab to be released immediately, and for the charges against him to be dropped. BCHR also urges the government of Bahrain to ensure that Rajab and other political prisoners receive adequate and timely medical care in line with international protocols and regulations pertaining to prisoners and detained individuals.