Category: Press Releases

IPI joins over 100 human rights organisations in demanding release of Bahraini activist

Nabeel Rajab has been held since last week on defamation charges related to Twitter postings

Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, gestures during a conference at the Swiss Press Club in Geneva June 18, 2014. IPI joined with over 100 human rights organizations to protest his ongoing imprisonment since his arrest in early October 2014. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

VIENNA, Oct 10, 2014 - The International Press Institute (IPI) has joined over 100 freedom of expression and human rights groups to protest the imprisonment of Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab.

The prominent human rights activist was arrested last week and charged with defamation in connection with two tweets he made on Sept. 28 that Bahraini authorities allege were insulting to the country’s Interior and Defence Ministries. His trial, originally scheduled for Oct. 9, was postponed and is now expected to take place on Oct. 19.

IPI notes that the UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment No. 34 clearly states that “imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty” for defamation. In the same declaration, the Committee emphasises that “States parties should not prohibit criticism of institutions, such as the army or the administration.”

The signatories to the joint petition, released yesterday, call for the immediate release of Rajab and urge the government of Bahrain to “stop the judicial harassment of human rights defenders; drop all charges against them and release all detained human rights defenders and political prisoners”.

9 October 2014

The undersigned more than 100 organisations call for the immediate, unconditional release of detained human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, arrested on 1 October 2014 in Bahrain.

Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was summoned on 1 October 2014 to attend an investigation at the Criminal Investigation Directorate, specifically the General Directorate of Anti-corruption and Economic and Electronic Security. The investigation session lasted about 45 minutes and focused on two tweets that the authorities claim have offended the Ministry of Interior.

One tweet, from 28 September 2014, said: “many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS have come from the security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator.”

Rajab was detained until the following day when the public prosecution ordered his detention be extended for seven days pending investigation. On 9 October, no hearing took place and his case was instead transferred to the Lower Criminal Court for a hearing on 19 October, thus extending his detention a further ten days. It should be noted that he is no longer under pre-trial detention as he has now been charged. In addition, a new complaint was filed by the Bahraini Defense Forces in relation to the same tweet about ISIS. The BDF claims it was insulting to both security and military institutions of Bahrain.

It's feared that the government of Bahrain may try to imprison Rajab for a long time. Under Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code, this crime is punishable with up to three years in prison. Article 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.”

Rajab was imprisoned several times in the past few years. On 9 July 2012, the 5th Lower Criminal Court sentenced him to three months in prison, in a case that is linked to six tweets he posted on 2 June 2012. He had served almost the full sentence before that conviction was overturned on 23 August 2012. However, on 16 August 2012, the Lower Criminal Court also sentenced Rajab to three years' imprisonment for “participation in illegal gatherings and calling for a march without prior notification.” That sentence was reduced on 11 December 2012 to two years, and he was released on 24 May 2014.

During his previous imprisonment, Rajab has been subject to discrimination and ill-treatment in prison, including being placed in solitary confinement with a dead animal, being isolated from other political detainees for his entire detention period and being prevented from contacting his family on occasion, including after he reported violations that he had witnessed in prison. He was not permitted to see his family on the Eid this past week.

The undersigned organisations consider the detention of Rajab since 1 October to be a clear act of discrimination. Last month, another citizen was accused of a crime under the same article of the law, "offending the army"; however while that person was released within 24 hours, Rajab was denied release, presumably due to his reputation as a well-known human rights defender with a lot of influence on twitter, both locally and internationally.

We believe strongly that Nabeel Rajab has been targeted solely due to his peaceful and legitimate human rights work and in particular his recent successful missions to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and the European Union in Brussels. He is being detained for merely exercising his rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, as guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The undersigned over 100 organisations call for:

- The immediate and unconditional release of Nabeel Rajab and all other human rights defenders who have been detained in Bahrain solely as a result of their legitimate human rights work;
- The Bahrain authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Nabeel Rajab;
- The Bahrain authorities to guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

We further urge the UN, US administration, the UK government, as well as other governments that have influence in Bahrain, the EU and leading human rights organizations to put real pressure on the government of Bahrain in order to immediately stop the judicial harassment of human rights defenders; drop all charges against them and release all detained human rights defenders and political prisoners, including Nabeel Rajab, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, founder of BCHR and GCHR, and Naji Fateel of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights.


Activist Organization For Development And Human Rights, Yemen
Agencia EFE, Spain
Albadeal centre for studies and research, Jordan
Alkarama, Switzerland
All Youth Organization, Yemen
AMAL Human Development Network, Pakistan
AMAN Network for Rehabilitation and Defending Human Rights
Amel Association, Lebanon
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Arab Digital Expression, Egypt
Arab Institute For Human Rights, Lebanon
Arab Lawyers Union, Egypt
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
Article 19, Bahrain
Association Dea Dia Serbia
Association de la Réinsertion des Prisonniers et le Suivi des Conditions des Prisons, Tunisia
Association Tunisienne de Defense des Droits de L'Enfant, Tunisia
Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) Network
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Bahrain Human Rights Society
Bahrain Human Rights Observatory (BHRO)
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
Bahrain Interfaith
Bahrain Rehabilitation & Anti Violence Organisation (BRAVO)
Bahrain Salam for Human Rights
Bahrain Transparency
Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights
BRAC, Bangladesh
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
CARAM-Asia, Malaysia
Caritas Migrant Center, Lebanon
Center for Transitional Justice, Tunisia
CIVICUS, South Africa
Coalition of Tunisian Women
Community Development Services (CDS), Sri Lanka
Defending Justice and Rights, USA
Dewany Civil Office of Ombudsman, USA
Egyptian Organization For Human Rights (EOHR)
English PEN
European Saudi Organizations for Human Rights, Germany
European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR)
Filastiniyat, Palestine
Fondation Chokri Belaid Contre la Violence, Tunisia
Forum des Alternatives Maroc, Morocco
Fraternity Center for Democracy and Civil Society
Freedom House
Front Line Defenders
Gesr Center for Development (GESR)
Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)
Human Right Information And Training Centre, Yemen
Human Rights and the Ahwazi Arabs, UK
Human Rights Information And Training Centre, Lebanon
Humanitarian Rights Center, Yemen
Independent Commission for Citizens Rights, Palestine
Index on Censorship
International Awareness Youth Club, Egypt
International centre for supporting rights and freedom, Egypt
International Civil Society Network
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
International Media Support (IMS), Denmark
International Press Institute (IPI)
International Service for Human Rights
Islamic Non Violence Organization, USA
Jordanian Commission for Democratic Culture
Justice for Iran (JFI),UK
Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture, Lebanon
Kuwait Institute For Human Rights
Kuwait Society For Human Rights
Lawyer's Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)
Ligue algerienne pour la defense des droits de l'homme (LADDH), Algeria
Ligue Tunisienne pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme (LTDH), section Sfax sud, Tunisia
Lualua centre for human rights (LCHR), Lebanon
Maharat Foundation, Lebanon
Martin Ennals Award, Switzerland
MENA monitoring group, Tunisia
Monitoring of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
Network of Algerian Human Rights Lawyers
New Bakkah Foundation, Switzerland
Nidal Tagheer Organization for Defending Rights, Yemen
No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ), Italy
Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty (NRPTT), Italy
Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), Norway
Organisation marocaine des droits humains, Morroco
Palestinian Institute for Human Rights
Peace Mission of the International Council for Human Rights, Yemen
PEN International
Rafto Foundation, Norway
Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), France
Réseau des avocats algérien pour défendre les droits de l'homme, Algeria
RO'YA Association for a Better Syria, France
Shia Rights Watch, USA
Sudanese Development Initiative (SUDIA)
Syrian Center for Democracy and Civil Rights
Syrian Nonviolence Movement
Tunisian Initiative for Freedom of Expression
Tunisian National Council for Liberties (CNLT)
Un ponte per, Italy
Volunteers Without borders, Lebanon
Women Research and Training Centre
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
Youth for Humanity, Egypt
Youth Transparency & Building, Yemen

And the family of Nabeel Rajab:

Sumaya, Adam and Malek Rajab

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