SHAFAQNA – 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 continuous travel ban of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), FIDH Deputy Secretary General and a member of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division.
According to the information received, on December 3, 2015, Mr. Rajab’s lawyers submitted a second petition to the Attorney General requesting the lift of the travel ban imposed on Mr. Nabeel Rajab on July 13, 2015 (see background information). Previously, Mr. Rajab’s lawyers had filed appeals to the travel ban with the investigating prosecutor on September 2, 2015, the Attorney General on September 16, and the Office of the Public Prosecution on October 1, 2015. They received no response to such petitions.
In the written request filed to the Attorney General, Mr. Rajab’s lawyers raised the issue of urgency, as Mr. Rajab’s wife health is continuously deteriorating and needs treatment outside of Bahrain, accompanied by Mr. Rajab.
The Observatory denounces the continued travel ban imposed against Mr. Nabeel Rajab and considers that Mr. Rajab is targeted solely for his human rights activities. The Observatory calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately lift the travel ban, and drop all charges against Mr. Nabeel Rajab.
The Observatory, more generally, urges the Bahraini authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment against Mr. Rajab, and to comply with relevant international human rights standards and instruments, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998.
Mr. Rajab has faced continuous judicial harassment for his legitimate human rights work since his first arrest in June 2012. Mr. Rajab was sentenced to three months imprisonment for allegedly libelling the residents of Al Muharraq via several 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 sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to three years of imprisonment in relation to three cases related to his participation in peaceful gatherings in favour of fundamental freedoms and democracy. In December 2012, the Appeals Court reduced the sentence to two years of imprisonment. Mr. Nabeel Rajab completed his sentence and was released in May 2014.
On October 1, 2014, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was summoned and remanded in detention by the General Directorate of Anti-corruption and Economic and Electronic Security of the Criminal Investigation Department for “insulting a public institution” under Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code. The case related to a tweet he published in September 2014, in which he criticised the military institutions for generating extremist ideologies (the “terrorism tweet” case). On November 2, 2014, the Third Lower Criminal Court ordered Mr. Rajab’s release but barred him from leaving the country.
On January 20, 2015, the Third Lower Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to six months imprisonment on the charges of “insulting public institutions and the army”.
In 2015, two other sets of criminal charges have been brought against Mr. Rajab. On February 26, 2015, Mr. Rajab was summoned for investigations for charges of “inciting hatred towards the regime” in relation to a speech he made in February 2011 during a funeral (the “funeral speech case”). To date, the police investigation is ongoing.
In addition, on April 2, 2015, at 4:00 pm, over twenty police cars surrounded Mr. Rajab’s house and policemen arrested him. Mr. Rajab was then sent to the General Directorate of Anti Corruption Economic and Electronic Security to be interrogated and placed in detention in solitary confinement in Isa Town Police Station. On April 3, 2015, Mr. Rajab was interrogated by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) regarding two new charges brought against him under criminal case No. 2015/38288. The first charge was “insulting a statutory body” (Article 216 of the Bahraini Criminal Code) referring to the Ministry of Interior in relation to tweets he posted denouncing the torture of detainees at Jaw Prison (the “Jaw torture tweets” case). The second charge was “disseminating false rumours in time of war” (Article 133 of the Bahraini Criminal Code) in relation to tweets he published about the Saudi-Arabia led coalition air strikes in Yemen (the “Yemen tweets” case). If sentenced on the second charge, Mr. Rajab could be facing up to 10 years imprisonment. Mr. Rajab refused to sign the police minutes of the investigations. On April 4, 2015, Mr. Rajab was brought before the Public Prosecution. The Prosecution ordered seven days detention pending investigation. On April 5, 2015, security police confiscated all electronics devices belonging to Mr. Rajab and members of his family.
On April 11, 2015, the prosecution ordered an additional fifteen days in detention for Mr. Rajab. On April 26, 2015, the Public Prosecution officially charged Mr. Rajab under Articles 133 and 216. The Public Prosecution subsequently extended his detention for an additional fifteen days. On May 11, the Bahraini High Court extended Nabeel Rajab´s preventive detention for 15 days.
On May 14, 2015, the Bahrain Criminal Court of Appeal upheld the six-month prison sentence (the “terrorism tweet” case).
On July 13, 2015, the King of Bahrain Hamad Ben Issa Al-Khalifa ordered through Royal Pardon the release of Mr. Nabeel Rajab for health reasons. Mr. Rajab had already served three of the six months jail sentence.
Moreover, on the same date, the Public Prosecution imposed a travel ban against Mr. Rajab in relation to criminal case No. 2015/38288 related to the Jaw torture and Yemen tweets cases.
The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:
i. Immediately lift the travel ban against Mr. Nabeel Rajab, and drop all charges against him, as he is targeted solely for his human rights activities;
ii. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and that of all human rights defenders in Bahrain;
iii. 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;
iv. 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”.
v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.