127 Rights Groups Call for Immediate Release of...
For the second time since 2013, the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has issued an Opinion regarding the legality of the detention of Mr. Nabeel Rajab under international human rights law. In its second opinion, the WGAD held that the detention was not only arbitrary but also discriminatory. The 127 signatory human rights groups welcome this landmark opinion, made public on 13 August 2018, recognising the role played by human rights defenders in society and the need to protect them. We call upon the Bahraini Government to immediately release Nabeel Rajab in accordance with this latest request.
In its Opinion the WGAD considered that the detention of Mr. Nabeel Rajab contravenes Articles 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Articles 2, 9, 10, 14, 18, 19 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Bahrain in 2006. The WGAD requested the Government of Bahrain to “release Mr. Rajab immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.”
This constitutes a landmark opinion as it recognises that the detention of Mr. Nabeel Rajab – President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of the Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa Advisory Committee – is arbitrary and in violation of international law, as it results from his exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression as well as freedom of thought and conscience, and furthermore constitutes “discrimination based on political or other opinion, as well as on his status as a human rights defender.” Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s detention has therefore been found arbitrary under both categories II and V as defined by the WGAD.
Mr. Nabeel Rajab was arrested on 13 June 2016 and has been detained since then by the Bahraini authorities on several freedom of expression-related charges that inherently violate his basic human rights. Most recently on 5 June 2018, the Manama Appeals Court upheld his five years’ imprisonment sentence for “disseminating false rumors in time of war”; “offending a foreign country” – in this case Saudi Arabia; and for “insulting a statutory body”, in reference to comments made on Twitter in March 2015 regarding alleged torture in Jaw prison and criticising the killing of civilians in the Yemen conflict by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.
The WGAD underlined that “the penalisation of a media outlet, publishers or journalists solely for being critical of the government or the political social system espoused by the government can never be considered to be a necessary restriction of freedom of expression,” and emphasised that “no such trial of Mr. Rajab should have taken place or take place in the future.” The WGAD added that several cases concerning Bahrain had already been brought before it in the past five years, in which WGAD “has found the Government to be in violation of its human rights obligations.”
Indeed, the list of those detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and opinion in Bahrain is long and includes several prominent human rights defenders, notably Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace and Mr. Naji Fateel.
The 127 signatory human rights groups urge the Bahrain authorities to follow up on the WGAD’s request to conduct a country visit to Bahrain and to respect the WGAD’s opinion, by immediately and unconditionally releasing Mr. Nabeel Rajab, and dropping all charges against him. In addition, they urge the authorities to release all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Bahrain and to guarantee in all circumstances their physical and psychological health.