Bahrain: recently released political prisoner Nabeel Rajab arrested again
BHR 001 / 0812 / OBS 048.6
Arbitrary detention / Judicial harassment
October 1, 2014
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment against Mr. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and FIDH Deputy Secretary General1.
According to the information received, on October 1, 2014, Mr. Rajab was summoned in the framework of a 45-minute investigation at the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), IT Crimes Section. The investigation concerned certain tweets published by Mr. Rajab on Twitter, which the CID alleged were insulting the Ministry of Interior, pursuant to Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code2. If convicted, he could face up to three years imprisonment. The CID decided to detain Mr. Rajab overnight before presenting him to the Public Prosecution on October 2 for further investigation. It is to be noted that the Ministry of Interior is allowed by law to order detention only up to 48 hours before referral to the Public Prosecution, or release.
The Observatory strongly deplores the new arbitrary detention and ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Rajab and considers it as a reprisal to sanction his legitimate human rights activities. In particular, the Observatory notes that Mr. Rajab had just returned to Bahrain following an international advocacy tour at the United Nations and European Union, and there are strong reasons to believe that he has been targeted particular due to his advocacy for human rights violations committed in Bahrain.
Mr. Rajab has recently been released from prison after completing the two year sentence issued against him in August 2012 (see background information). In another case, he had already been tried on similar charges in relation to some of his tweets in which he was accused of insulting the Ministry of Interior, before being acquitted.
In 2013, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UN WGAD) had found that Mr. Rajab's detention was arbitrary, following a previous conviction related to his freedom of opinion, expression and assembly. The UN WGAD had concluded that the « domestic laws of Bahrain (…) seem to deny persons the basic right to feedom of opinion, expression »
The Observatory calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, as his arbitrary detention and judicial harassment merely aim at hindering his human rights activities.
The Observatory more generally urges the Bahraini authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Mr. Rajab, and to comply with the relevant international norms and standards, in particular the United Nations (UN) Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, and international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.
On July 9, 2012, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was arrested by masked police officers at his house3 after he had tweeted the following on June 2: "Khalifa, leave the residents of Al Muharraq, its Sheikhs and its elderly. Everyone knows that you are not popular here, and if it wasn't for the subsidies, they wouldn't have gone out to welcome you. When will you step down?".
On the same day, the 5th Lower Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Rajab to three months imprisonment for allegedly libelling the residents of Al Muharraq through tweets posted on his twitter account. On August 23, 2012, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was acquitted by the Higher Appeal Court.
On August 16, 2012, the Lower Criminal Court had also sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to three years imprisonment. Mr. Rajab appeared before the Court for three cases related to his participation in pacific gatherings in favour of fundamental freedoms and democracy:
- The first case relates to charges of “participating in an illegal assembly” and “calling others to join”, in relation to a protest organised on March 31, 2012 in Manama to denounce the detention of the founder of GCHR, former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), and former MENA Director at Front Line, Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.
- The second one relates to on charges of “involvement in illegal practices and incitement to gatherings and calling for unauthorised marches through social networking sites” for a protest in Manama on January 12, 2012.
- The third one on relates to charges of “participating in an illegal assembly” in relation to several protests that took place in Manama in February 2012.
The Court thus sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to one year imprisonment for each of these three cases.
In December 2012, the Appeals Court reduced the sentence to two years imprisonment. Mr. Nabeel Rajab completed his sentence and was released in June 2014.
The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:
Release Mr. Nabeel Rajab immediately and unconditionally as his detention is arbitrary since it seems to merely sanction his human rights activities;
Put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Nabeel Rajab and against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;
Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and all human rights defenders in Bahrain;
Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular:
- its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” ;
its Article 6 (c) which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others 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 its Article 12.2 which states that “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”.
vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.
Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA, King of Bahrain, Fax: +973 176 64 587
Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tel: +973 172 27 555; Fax : +973 172 12 6032
Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Tel: +973 175 31 333; Fax: +973 175 31 284
Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 chemin Jacques-Attenville, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to diplomatic representations of Bahrain in your respective countries.
Paris-Geneva, October 1, 2014.
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
1 Mr. Rajab is also a member of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch's Middle East Division and Chair of CARAM Asia.
2Article 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”.