Bahrain: Bahrain: Calls for the immediate release of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab
Beirut, 04 August 2012- The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), call on the authorities in Bahrain to immediately release Nabeel Rajab, President of the BCHR and director of the GCHR and to drop all charges against him.
On 5 August 2012, the Higher Appeal Court will rule on the appeal submitted by Nabeel Rajab’s lawyers against a three-month prison sentence, which was handed down on 9 July by the 5th Lower Criminal Court. The human rights defender was found guilty of libel based on posts on his Twitter account directed at the Prime Minster of Bahrain where he highlighted his corruption and called on him to step down. (For more information see GCHR appeal dated 7 July 2012 http://gc4hr.org/news/view/190).
Nabeel Rajab’s lawyers filed two appeals the first one, requesting that the three months prison sentence be commuted into community work, was rejected by the Court. The second appeal was a request to have the sentence suspended. This is the third occasion that this appeal will be before the court. The matter had been scheduled to be heard on 18 July 2012 however the court adjourned the hearing until 24 July so that it could examine the case file. On 24 July 2012, Nabeel Rajab appeared before the court for the second time. On that occasion, the Court refused to release the human rights defender on bail and stated that it would issue its verdict on the appeal on 5 August 2012.
The human rights defender is currently being detained in Jaw Central Prison in a cell with no air conditioning despite the high temperatures. He is prohibited from talking to other prisoners apart from the two men whom he shares the cell with. Furthermore it is reported that he is suffering from a skin condition and is being denied access to a doctor and to required treatment. His family was allowed to visit him for the first time on July 19 2012 however, unlike other detainees, he is reportedly brought to the visits centre handcuffed.
On July 16 2012, a hearing took place in relation to another case in which Nabeel Rajab is accused of “involvement in illegal practices and inciting gatherings and calling for unauthorised marches through social networking sites”. His lawyers requested that this case be merged with a further case relating to charges of “participation in illegal gathering and calling for a march without prior notification”, in the capital, Manama. The court agreed to merge these two cases, and the next hearing for both cases will take place on September 26, 2012.
The GCHR and the BCHR believe that the arrest, on going detention and sentencing of Nabeel Rajab are directly related to his peaceful and legitimate human rights work and constitute gross infringements of his basic human rights. The GCHR and the BCHR expresses serious concern for the physical and psychological integrity of Nabeel Rajab while he remains in detention.
The GCHR and BCHR urge the authorities in Bahrain to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release Nabeel Rajab and all other human rights defenders who have been detained solely as a result of their legitimate human rights work;
- Immediately ensure that Nabeel Rajab has access to a doctor and to any medical treatment that he requires;
- Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Nabeel Rajab;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment
The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (b and c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; (c) 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 to Article 12 (1 and 2): “(1) Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (2) 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.”
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights is an independent centre and has been registered in Ireland. The Centre works to strengthen support for human rights defenders and independent journalists in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.