Bahrain: Bahrain: GCHR welcomes the release of Nabeel Rajab and calls for the release of all human rights defenders
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcomes the release of its Co-Founding Director Nabeel Rajab but repeats its calls for the release of all human rights defenders imprisoned in Bahrain.
On 14 July 2015, Nabeel Rajab was released on health grounds following a royal pardon having served three months of a six months prison sentence for arbitrary charges of “insulting public institutions and the army.” He was arrested in April and his appeal was rejected on 14 May 2015. The royal pardon comes less than a week after the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for his release and the release of other human rights defenders in Bahrain (see previous GCHR appeals (https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/984, https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1047).
While the GCHR welcomes his release it emphasises the fact that Nabeel Rajab does not require an amnesty from the King as he has not committed any offence but has been targeted solely as a result of his human rights work. Furthermore the pardon relates to one charge only and Nabeel still faces other baseless charges of “insulting a statutory body”, “spreading rumours during a time of war”, and “disseminating false news causing damage to public security” for which he could receive a lengthy prison term. These charges were brought against him following his work documenting torture in Bahrain’s Jaw Prison.
On 16 July, three United Nations Special Rapporteurs, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst; the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye; and the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association Maina Kiai, acknowledged the shortcomings of the pardon. While welcoming Nabeel Rajab’s release they said it was “only a half measure, given that he is still facing charges that carry up to fifteen years of imprisonment."
Nabeel Rajab has served many prison sentences and has been subjected to on-going judicial harassment as a result of his peaceful human rights work. He was jailed in October 2014 for comments he made on Twitter only months after he had completed a two-year prison term.
The GCHR urges the authorities in Bahrain to drop all charges against Nabeel Rajab and to desist in the judicial harassment against him. Furthermore it urges the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Abulhadi Al-Khawaja, Abduljalil Al-Singace, Naji Fateel, and all human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience, imprisoned in Bahrain as a direct result of their legitimate and peaceful human rights work.