Bahrain’s government releases from prison Nabeel Rajab, prominent human rights defender
On 9th June 2020, Bahrain’s court announced the release from prison of the prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab. The positive news was made public by his lawyer Mohamed Al Jishi on Tuesday, who declared that Mr Nabeel will spend the rest of his sentence in his home. Over 127 NGOs, including ECDHR, advocated for Nabeel Rajab’s release in 2018. The European Union published a statement welcoming his release and calling on the Bahraini authorities to free all other persons detained for defending the rights of others.
Nabeel Rajab was first arrested in 2012 and was charged for “insulting a statutory body on Twitter”. Since then, he has been repeatedly arrested and incarcerated for charges in connection with his social media advocacy and protest activities. By the time he was released, on 9th June 2020, he had already served almost four years of detention. Torture, degrading treatment and lack of medical assistance are only a few of the human rights violations Nabeel has endured during his tenure. He was also subjected to a forced and humiliating search and had his hair forcibly shaved off. In 2018 he tweeted about the torture in Jau Prison, denouncing the inhuman conditions of detention. This tweet cost him five more years of his freedom.
Bahraini authorities’ persecution of human rights activists increased since 2011, when citizens asked for more freedom, during the Arab Spring protests. Since then, Bahrain’s human rights crisis has worsened, with political leaders and opposition activists being arbitrarily arrested and detained or tortured. Human Rights Watch has reported that judges’ sentences rely on forced confessions and some of these sentences include the death penalty. The government of Bahrain insisted that Nabeel Rajab’s trial was transparent, but a report from an observation mission found that the trial proceedings were unfair. In fact, Nabeel Rajab nor his lawyer could speak during the sentencing.
Despite the international pressure on the government of Bahrain to release political prisoners, most of them remain in detention, where they face unsanitary conditions and a greater risk of infection by COVID-19. Although Bahrain has lately released inmates amid the pandemic, the authorities largely avoided freeing political prisoners. In fact, Nabeel Rajab is the only major opposition and human rights activist that has been freed so far. Among those still in prison, there are Mohammed Ramadan and Hussain Moosa, who were sentenced to the death penalty.
ECDHR advocates for the release of political prisoners in Bahrain and calls upon the government of Bahrain to uphold its human rights obligations, respect the right to a fair trial and stop the mistreatment of human rights activists. We welcome the release of Nabeel Rajab and we ask Bahraini authorities to release all human rights defenders, because as Nabeel Rajab said: “fight for democracy and human rights won’t stop”.