Bahrain: Bahrain must abide by its own laws and immediately release leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses grave concern regarding the Bahraini authorities’ treatment of Nabeel Rajab, imprisoned President of the BCHR and General Secretary of GCHR, in addition to their refusal to grant him early release that he is eligible for as per the law. A request for early release was submitted by Nabeel Rajab’s lawyers on 21 January 2014 to the Court but it was rejected without any reasons given.
On 21 January 2014, the penalty enforcement judge once again rejected a request that was submitted on the same day to release leading human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab. Before passing judgment, the judge reportedly did not a take any action to investigate whether conditions for early release had been met. This is the third attempt submitted by Rajab’s lawyers requesting his release, based on article 349 of Code of Criminal Procedures which sets conditions for early release. These are as follows: three quarters of the sentence has already been served, trustworthy good behavior during detention and the imprisoned person is not a threat to public security. Although these conditions apply to Rajab’s case, all requests submitted by his lawyers were rejected. (See about previous requests on http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/6635)
In the letter submitted to the judge on 21 Jan 2014, Nabeel Rajab’s lawyer provided evidence of his eligibility for early release and complained about the discrimination against Rajab in applying the law of early release, as well as the harm he suffered because of the prolonged delay in responding to his request which was submitted to the Court of Cassation to suspend the sentence.
The evidence provided by Rajab’s lawyer is detailed below:
(Following are excerpts from the letter submitted to the court)
First: the availability of the conditions of the conditional release of our client:
1) In regards to showing trustworthy behaviour while in prison, that condition is met by our client and nothing at any time has been provided by the prison administration that may contradict that, especially as it has been proved that he took the initiative while in prison to report to the prison administration, Public Prosecution and General Secretariat of Complaints at the Ministry of Interior a about torture that took place and that was committed by some of the members and officers of the Ministry of Interior against some inmates inside Jaw Prison.
Based on this report, the Public Prosecution began to investigate the matter according to a statement issued by the Chief Prosecutor, Head of the Special Investigation Unit, Nawaf Hamza, on 7/12/2013, published by Bahrain News Agency (BNA) where it stated the Chief Prosecutor’s confirmation, ‘the Special Unit received a report from the sentenced Nabeel Rajab about a number of inmates at the Facility of Correction and Rehabilitation being subjected to abuse by some policemen, and the Unit initiated an investigation into the incident as soon as it received the report’.
This confirms that our client is trustworthy: his statement about the incident corresponded with the investigation carried out by the General Secretariat of Complaints and Special Investigation Unit at the Public Prosecution and which ended with referring the defendants who are members of the public security forces to court.
In this context, it is noteworthy that our client had taken the initiative as soon as he knew about the crime to inform the Administration of Jaw’s Prison about it, however the prison administration did nothing indeed, it interrupted and disconnected our client’s phone call when he was about to tell his wife about the incident, with the aim of conveying the information to his lawyer, so that the latter could inform the official channels on his behalf.
2) As to the condition that the sentenced person would not cause a threat to public security, our client’s charges are limited to offenses related to peacefully practising freedom of expression and opinion while carrying out his duties as a human rights defender, and thus, he naturally does not form any threat to public security.
3) As to the third condition regarding the period the sentenced has spent in prison, our client has spent more than 20 months which exceeds three fourths of his prison sentence of two years. Our client has spent detention periods at Hura Police Station pending the hearing of cases in which he was accused , as follows:
- In case no 4705/2012 he spent 15 days in detention from 5/5/2012 until 20/5/2012.
- In case no 4947/2012 he spent 8 days from 20/5/2012 until 28/5/2012.
- In case no 5807/2012 he spent 21 days from 6/6/2012 until 27/6/2012.
The total number of days our client has spent in detention is 15+8+21=44 days
The penalty was implemented from 9/ 7/2012 until now, i.e. 558 days. Hence, the total amount he has spent in jail is 558+44=602 days, which exceeds 20 months, more than three fourths of his sentence period.
Second: submitting a request from the Prison Warden is not a condition for release:
The law does not require that the release is guaranteed by submitting a request from the prison warden. Article 350 of the Law of Criminal Procedure states that the conditional release is by order of the Judge of Penalty Implementation, on the basis of evidence provided by the Manager of Penal Facilities. Submitting a request from the prison warden is just a matter of regulatory procedure, in cases where the sentenced cannot make a request himself. Thus, it is not a requirement to be eligible for release, as it is inconceivable that legislation would intend to mortgage the inherent right of a sentenced to the will or mood of an administrative body.
Henceforth, the sentenced person can submit a request considering him an inherent right and interest holder, and in this matter the Judge of Implementation asks the prison administration about the whether the detained person has met the aforementioned first and third condition, regarding the behaviour of the sentenced person prison and whether or not he had spent three fourths of his prison sentence.
Note that we had submitted two letters on 9/9/2013 and 25/11/2013, to the Director of the Correction and Rehabilitation Facility Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Rashid Al-Hoseini requesting the conditional release of our client, and for his name to be included among those exempted from the remaining sentence period, However the prison administration did nothing in that regard.
Third: the availability of evidence of discrimination against our client:
It is confirmed from what has been presented that the prison administration neglected the report submitted by our client regarding the crime committed by its employees, and it also ignored or did not respond to his requests for conditional release or to exempt him from the remaining sentence period. However, and according to information published in the Official Gazette regarding the release of 208 prisoners in October 2013 and the release of 172 prisoners in January 2014, we know that, the administration handles hundreds of releases constantly whether through conditional release or exemption from the remaining sentence period.
Based on the above, it has been proven to your Justice that our client is being subjected to discrimination by excluding him from conditional release provisions or exemption from the remaining sentence period despite the fact that all the prescribed requirements have been met according to the law.
It seems that depriving him from his right to conditional release is part of a broader campaign against human rights defenders, aimed at silencing the voices that condemn human rights violations in Bahrain, human rights violations that have been documented in official reports such as the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) established by his Majesty the King, and by several UN institutions such as the UN Human Rights Council.
Human rights defenders in Bahrain have shed light on these human rights violations with the aim of putting an end to their continuation and holding those responsible for them accountable, in order to maintain human dignity and rights as called for by the country’s constitution.
Fourth: persistence to harm our client by postponing the decision on his urgent request to stop the implementation of the sentence against him:
In addition to the above , at a time when our client is being discriminated against by the prison administration, that is associated with a carelessness in making a decision to stop the implementation of the sentence against him which he submitted to the Court of Cassation in the list of appealing the discrimination in the current sentence that is being implemented; the appeal was submitted on 10/1/2013, more than a year ago, and a court session has not been specified to look into the urgent request to stop the implementation until now, although an urgent request has been made to the Court of Cassation.
Based on the above, we ask of Your Justice, after enquiring from the prison administration about the good conduct of our client and the prison sentence he has already served, to issue a conditional release order for our client Mr / Nabeel Ahmed Rajab immediately.
His lawyer stated that all documents and proofs were submitted with the letter, however, the judge did not ask the prison administration to confirm the time that Rajab has already served or about his behavior and rejected the request on the same day, without providing any justification and without replying to the discrimination complaint.
The GCHR and BCHR believes that Nabeel Rajab is being subjected to discrimination by the Bahraini authorities and that the reason for denying him the legitimate right to early release is because of his activities as a human rights defender.
Therefore, the GCHR and the BCHR call on the US administration, the UK government, the EU and other governments that have influence on the Bahraini authorities and leading human rights organizations to call the Bahraini government to abide by its own laws and immediately release leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab.