Bahrain: Free Renowned Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab and Stop the Pattern of Arrests


We, the staff and Advisory Board members of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), call for the immediate release of our colleague Nabeel Rajab, GCHR Director, who has been arrested today in Manama. Rajab, who is also President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), returned home from Europe last night, 30 September, after being away for a couple of months. He was released in May 2014 after a two-year prison sentence (, and we fear he is now facing another prison term merely for exercising his right to free expression.

On 1 October 2014, Nabeel Rajab was summonsed in the afternoon to attend an investigation at the Criminal Investigation Directorate, specifically the cyber crimes unit. Rajab attended the investigation with his lawyer Jalila Sayed. The investigation session lasted about 45 minutes and concerned certain tweets in which Rajab is said to have offended the Ministry of Interior. According to the Ministry of the Interior, “The General Directorate of Anti-corruption and Economic and Electronic Security summoned Nabeel Ahmed Abdulrasool Rajab on Wednesday to interview him regarding Tweets posted on his Twitter account that denigrated government institutions.”

Under Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code, this crime is punishable with up to three years of prison. Article 216 provides that: “A person shall be liable for imprisonment or payment of a fine if he offends by any method of expression the National Assembly, or other constitutional institutions, the army, law courts, authorities or government agencies.”

Rajab was kept in detention and shall be referred tomorrow, 2 October, to the Public Prosecution for further investigation.

Following the recent arrest of GCHR Co-Director Maryam Al-Khawaja upon her return to Bahrain in August, we note the continued harassment of human rights defenders in Bahrain, including GCHR and BCHR staff.  Maryam Al-Khawaja is free pending a High Criminal Court appearance on 5 November, where she faces charges of allegedly “assaulting a police woman”. Read her testimony here: Her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, founder and former head of both GCHR and BCHR, remains in prison on a life sentence for his role in peaceful protests in 2011.

It is time for Bahrain’s rulers to stop harassing human rights defenders and silencing free speech, and live up to their international obligations – including those they pledged again to uphold as part of the UN Universal Periodic Review just last month. Please, let our colleagues go free. Free Nabeel Rajab and drop the charges facing Rajab and the Al-Khawajas.


1. Lord Eric Avebury

Vice-Chair, Parliamentary Human Rights Group UK

Advisory Board Member, Gulf Center for Human Rights

2. Joshua Colangelo-Bryan

Advisory Board Member, Gulf Center for Human Rights

3. Brian Dooley

Human Rights First

Advisory Board Member, Gulf Center for Human Rights

4. Melanie Gingell

Doughty Street Chambers

Advisory Board Member, Gulf Center for Human Rights

5. Khalid Ibrahim

Co-Director, Gulf Center for Human Rights

6. Toby C. Jones

Rutgers University

Advisory Board Member, Gulf Center for Human Rights

7. Ahmed Mansoor

Advisory Board Member, Gulf Center for Human Rights

8. Jalila Sayed

Jalila Sayed Attorneys & Legal Consultants, Bahrain

Advisory Board Member, Gulf Center for Human Rights

9. Kristina Stockwood

Chair, Advisory Board, Gulf Center for Human Rights

10. Joe Stork

Human Rights Watch

Advisory Board Member, Gulf Center for Human Rights


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