Bahrain: Continued judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of Mr. Nabeel Rajab
BHR 006 / 0812 / OBS 048.27
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights
Defenders, a partnership of 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 continued judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, co-founder and President
of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), founding Director of the Gulf
Center for Human Rights (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of FIDH from 2012 to
2016 and a member of the Middle East advisory committee at Human Rights Watch.
According to the information received, on January 5,
2017, the Public Prosecution renewed Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s pre-trial detention for
a further 15 days, pending investigation.
On December 28, 2016, the Public Prosecution ordered
the pre-trial detention for seven days of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, pending
investigation into televised interviews dating back to 2014. These interviews
with television networks Lua Lua Channel, Al Etijah TV and Al-Alam
News Network concerned the human rights situation in Bahrain. Within this
case, Mr. Nabeel Rajab is being prosecuted on charge of “deliberately spreading
false information and malicious rumors with the aim of discrediting the State”
(Article 134 of the Penal Code),
which carries up to three years in prison. He is currently detained in solitary
confinement at East Riffa police station.
Mr. Rajab has been continuously detained since June
13, 2016 and is also facing 15 years in prison in relation to other charges
regarding comments posted by Mr. Rajab on Twitter in 2015 about
conditions of detention in Jaw prison and the war in Yemen. He was already
detained from April 2 to July 13, 2015 for the same charges, which include the
following: “disseminating false rumours in time of war” (Article 133 of the
Penal Code), “insulting a statutory body” (Article 216) and “offending a
foreign country [Saudi Arabia]” (Article 215). The next hearing in this case
will be held on January 23, 2017 (see background information).
The Observatory is concerned that Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s health has severely
deteriorated while in detention. Most worryingly, he has been held in solitary
confinement for the vast majority of that period and denied access to proper
care. According to Mr. Rajab’s family he has lost 7kg since his arrest, has
developed high blood pressure and has irregular heart beats.
The Observatory denounces the continued arbitrary detention of Mr.
Nabeel Rajab, which seems to be yet another evidence of a long-standing pattern
of harassment against him to sanction his legitimate human rights activity.
The Observatory calls upon the Bahraini authorities to immediately and
unconditionally release Mr. Nabeel Rajab, and to put an end to any act of
harassment against him - and more generally against all human rights defenders
Mr. Rajab has faced continuous judicial harassment for his legitimate
human rights work since his first arrest in June 2012. On July 9, 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. Rajab was acquitted by the Higher Appeal Court.
On August 16, 2012, the Lower Criminal Court sentenced Mr. 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 (CID) for “insulting
a public institution” under Article 216 of the 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”, pursuant to Article 216 of the Penal Code.
In 2015, two other criminal charges were 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, 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 and 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 CID regarding
two new charges brought against him under criminal case No. 2015/38288. The
first charge was “insulting a statutory body”, 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”, 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, the Public Prosecution ordered seven days
detention pending investigation. On April 5, 2015, security police confiscated
all electronic 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 Mr. 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
Mr. Rajab’s lawyers subsequently filed appeals against the travel ban
with the investigating prosecutor on September 2, 2015, with the Attorney
General on September 16, and with the Office of the Public Prosecution on
October 1, 2015. They received no response to such petitions. On December 3, 2015,
Mr. Rajab's lawyers submitted another petition to the Attorney General
requesting the lift of the travel ban imposed on Mr. Nabeel Rajab on July 13,
2015. 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.
This request was disregarded.
In the morning of June 13, 2016, police forces reportedly led by the
Cybercrime Unit arrested Mr. Nabeel Rajab, after raiding his house and seizing
a number of electronic devices. In the afternoon, Mr. Rajab was able to contact
his wife by phone, and reported being detained at East Riffa police station.
On June 14, he was transferred to the Public Prosecution, which remanded
him in custody for seven days, on accusations of “publishing and broadcasting
false news that undermine the prestige of the State” under Article 134 of the
On June 21, 2016, Mr. Nabeel Rajab appeared before the Public
Prosecution, which remanded him in custody for eight additional days, in spite
of a request for immediate release made by his legal counsel.
On June 28, 2016, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was transferred from police custody
to the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) Hospital due to unprecedented heart
problems. On the same day, he was examined by a doctor, and was transferred
back to West Riffa police station.
On July 12, during the hearing, the judge dismissed the request for
release filed by Mr. Rajab’s lawyers and the hearing was postponed to August 2.
On August 2, 2016, the High Criminal Court, formed of judges Messrs.
Abdulla Al Ashraf, Ali Al Dahrani and Sh. Hamad Bin Salman Al Khalifa, decided
to postpone the trial to September 5, without providing any justification.
During the hearing, the lawyers of Mr. Rajab requested his provisional
release on the basis of his health conditions and the lack of evidence, but the
request was rejected by the Court. Instead, the judge ordered to refer Mr.
Rajab to the prison’s clinic.
On September 4, Mr. Rajab was summoned and questioned by CID officials.
He was denied access to a lawyer on this occasion.
On September 5, 2016, the Public Prosecution announced that additional
charges had been brought against Mr. Nabeel Rajab, for deliberately
disseminating “false news and information and tendentious rumours that
undermine the kingdom’s prestige and stature”, in relation to a letter
published in the New York Times on September 4, 2016,
describing his judicial harassment and arbitrary detention. If convicted, this
could add one year to his final sentence. In total, he now faces up to 16 years
in prison. Therefore the court decided to postpone once again the next hearing
in his trial to October 6, 2016.
On October 3, 2016, Mr. Nabeel Rajab underwent surgery to remove his
gallbladder. The surgery would result from his poor detention conditions since
On October 6, 2016, the High Criminal Court decided after a five minutes
hearing to postpone the trial to October 31st, without providing any
justification. At the beginning of the hearing, instead of issuing the
judgment, the Judge stated that the Court had taken note of the request
submitted by Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s lawyers to receive copies of their client’s
medical record and had decided to adjourn the case even. Before the hearing,
Mr. Rajab’s lawyers asked the Court a copy of his medical reports after the
Ministry of Interior and the Public Prosecution failed to provide them, in
clear violation of Mr. Rajab’s right to be informed of his own health
Once more on October 31, 2016, Judge Ebrahim Al-Zayed of the Fourth High
Criminal Court postponed the trial until December 15 in order to obtain a
technical expert from the Cyber-Crime Unit to determine who runs Rajab’s
twitter account. Rajab arrived at the court right before the hearing, and was
taken out immediately after the Judge made his pronouncements, while Rajab’s
lawyers were still making applications.
For the fifth time in a row, on December 15, 2016, after a fifteen
minutes hearing during which Mr. Nabeel
Rajab was not allowed to speak, the Fourth High Criminal Court postponed
the verdict until December 28, 2016 and refused to release him.
On December 21, 2016, the Cybercrime Unit of the
Ministry of Interior took Mr. Nabeel Rajab out of custody for interrogation
following the publication of a letter
quoting him in French newspaper Le Monde
on December 19, 2016. The Cybercrime Unit is reportedly accusing Mr. Rajab of
using the article to “spread false information and tendentious rumours
insulting Bahrain and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States and harming
their relations”. The letter urged Paris and Berlin to “reassess their
relationship with these monarchies, which actively work against democracy and human
rights and fan the flames of violence and extremism”.
On December 28, 2016, Manama’s Fifth High Criminal
Court acceded to an application for Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s temporary release
following a failure to give any basis or any sufficient evidence of a link
between him and the Twitter account with respect to the Yemeni and Jaw prison
Then Mr. Rajab was taken to the CID for temporary
release. However, he was re-arrested later on the same day and referred to the
Public Prosecution in relation to an investigation into televised interviews
dating from 2014, which commenced in mid-June 2016.
Please write to the authorities of Bahrain urging them
The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:
i. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity
of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and that of all human rights defenders in Bahrain;
ii. Release Mr. Nabeel Rajab immediately and
unconditionally, as his detention is arbitrary and its conditions amount to
ill-treatment and are endangering his life;
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 Articles 1,Article 6 (c)
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.
Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA, King of Bahrain, Fax: +973 176 64 587
Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax : 00973 17 21 05
Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Fax: +973
175 31 284
Gen. Cheikh Rashed bin Abdulla AL KHALIFA, Minister of Interior, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri, 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: email@example.com
Ahmed Mohammed Yousif Aldoseri, Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the
Kingdom of Belgium, Avenue Louise 250, 1050 Brussels, Belgium; Fax: 0032 (0)
26472274; E-mail: Brussels.firstname.lastname@example.org
January 9, 2017
inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your
Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was
created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The
objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of
repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu,
the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by
international civil society.
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