Arbitrary pre-trial detention of Nabeel Rajab set to continue past one year as trials postponed
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) remains deeply concerned about the ongoing pre-trial detention of its President, Nabeel Rajab, which contravenes international standards in regard to the length of time individuals should be detained prior to legal proceedings. Nabeel Rajab, who is still hospitalized, should be released on bail on medical grounds.
Rajab’s most recent trials were on 12 and 13 June for charges relating to televised interviews given to members of the international media and comments made on social media. The trial scheduled for 12 June was postponed to the following day. On 13 June, Rajab therefore faced two trials in absentia; one in the morning for comments on social media, and in the afternoon for interviews to international media. In both cases the Court postponed Rajab’s case, he now faces trial on 2 July for interviews given to the media, and on 7 August for charges relating to comments made on social media. Rajab’s arbitrary detention is therefore set to continue. In total Rajab faces up to 18 years in prison if convicted of all the charges against him.
Rajab’s lawyers and diplomatic observers from the United Kingdom and Australia walked out of the courtroom during proceedings.
Rajab is President of BCHR, as well as Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Advisory Committee. Rajab has been relentlessly persecuted for his human rights activities and jailed repeatedly on charges in violation of his right to freedom of expression.
Rajab has been detained since his arrest on 13 June 2016. He has spent much of his time in solitary confinement in Rifa’a police station. Conditions in the jail were at times deplorable, and are thought to have contributed to the deterioration of Rajab’s health. At the time of writing Rajab remains in hospital after being admitted on 8 April for complications relating to a surgical procedure.
In May the United Nations Committee Against Torture noted with “deep concern” the arbitrary imprisonment and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, including Rajab. Fourteen human rights groups, including BCHR, BIRD and Index on Censorship wrote to UN member states urging them to call for Rajab’s release. On 13 June, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye, called for the release of Rajab. On the same day 37 MEPs called on High Representative Federica Mogherini to call for the release of Rajab. In the United States, Congressman Jim McGovern addressed congress also calling for Rajab’s release.
BCHR strongly condemns the continued detention of Rajab and calls on the government of Bahrain to release the human rights defender. BCHR further urges the international community to continue to press the Bahraini government for the release of Nabeel Rajab and all other human rights defenders that are targeted and imprisoned in Bahrain.