The Observatory for the Protection of Rights Defenders calls on the Bahrain authorities to end its policy of arbitrary arrests and release all human rights defenders in jail.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders welcomes the release of Mr Nabeel Rajab but recalls that it is a positive but insufficient step since the Royal Pardon only concerns one of the three sets of criminal charges Rajab has been facing in the last months.
On 13 July 2015, King of Bahrain Hamad Ben Issa Al-Khalifa ordered through a royal pardon the release of Nabeel Rajab for health reasons. Mr Rajab had already served three of the six months jail sentence he received in appeal on 14 May 2015, for a tweet (under the charges of “Defamation of a statutory body” under Article 216 of the Penal Code).
However, Rajab still faces up to 15 years of imprisonment under several charges all related to tweets: “disseminating false rumours in time of war” (Article 133 of the Penal Code, entailing up to 10 years of imprisonment); “disseminating false news causing damage to public security” (Article 168, up to two years); “insulting public authorities” (Article 216, three years).
“These pending investigations represent a Damocles sword which the Bahrain authorities can use at their will to neutralise the human rights activities of Mr Rajab,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.
“While the release of Mr Nabeel Rajab is a positive step, he should never have been prosecuted nor jailed for his legitimate human rights activities. Moreover, the fact that this release is not unconditional should be deplored,” declared OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.
In addition, Nabeel Rajab’s release also takes place in a context of systematic repression of human rights defenders and just a day after the new arrest of a prominent political figure who had previously been released on royal pardon, thus attesting that the repression of peaceful dissent by human rights defenders, political and religious figures will continue to be the norm for the Bahraini authorities.
The Observatory calls on the Bahrain authorities to end its policy of arbitrary arrests and release all human rights defenders in jail. This arbitrariness and the continued harassment they face undermines the confidence the international community has in the good faith of the authorities in implementing their human rights commitments and in undertaking genuine and effective reforms.
The Observatory calls on the Bahrain authorities to act upon the requests made by the international community, including the European Parliament’s request for “the dropping of charges and immediate and unconditional release of all human rights defenders, political activists and other individuals detained and charged with alleged violations related to the rights of expression, peaceful assembly and association”.
14 July 2015
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) was created in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy to situations of repression against human rights defenders.