Bahrain: NGOs call for Nabeel Rajab’s release on Arrest Anniversary

13 June 2017 – On the anniversary of Nabeel Rajab’s arrest, ECDHR, together with thirteen NGOs (including Article 19, Amnesty International, IFEX, Index on Censorship, Pen International and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders), have written today to EU High Representative  for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, EU Member States as well as to UN Member and Observer states urging them to call on Bahraini authorities to free human rights defender.

Nabeel Rajab, one of Bahrain’s most vocal human rights defenders, is arbitrarily detained since 13 June 2016. He has now already spent 12 months in pre-trial detention, due to repeated adjournments of his trial contrary to international standards. Besides, Nabeel Rajab, 53, is suffering from poor health conditions that have worsened in detention after months spent largely in solitary confinement and denied access to proper care.

Nabeel Rajab faces trial later today, despite being unable to attend due to his hospitalisation. In total, he faces up to 18 years in prison between two trials – one for tweets and retweets posted in 2015 denouncing the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen and allegations of torture in Jau prison; the other is related to televised interviews he gave in 2015 and 2016 on Bahrain’s ban on foreign press. He has a third set of charges for writing a letter in The New York Times.

Nabeel Rajab’s arrest anniversary takes place amid prolonged and widespread reprisals against civil society, human rights defenders, and government critics in Bahrain. On 23 May 2017, Bahraini security forces raided a peaceful sit-in in support of leading Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim in Duraz, leaving five protesters dead, dozens more injured and 286 arrested. On 31 May, the last major opposition society, Wa’ad, was dissolved and their assets confiscated. On 4 June, the Ministry of Information Affairs suspended Al Wasat, widely seen as the only independent newspaper in Bahrain.


Read the letter [attached and below]


Ms. Federica Mogherini

High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission

Rue de la Loi 200
1049 Brussels


Mr. Stavros Lambrinidis

Special Representative for Human Rights,

Rond Point Schuman 9A

1046 Brussels



13 June 2017



RE: EU and its Member States should call on Bahraini authorities to free human rights defender Nabeel Rajab

We, the undersigned, express our deep concern over the continued detention of prominent Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, on the first anniversary of his arrest. We urge you to call for his immediate release and for all charges against him to be dropped.

Nabeel Rajab was arrested on 13 June 2016. He remains detained despite a court order to release him on 28 December 2016. He faces three separate legal cases, the trials for two of which have been postponed 23 times. In all cases, Rajab is being prosecuted for exercising his right to freedom of expression and faces up to a total of 18 years behind bars.

Rajab is the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division advisory committee. Rajab has repeatedly spoken out about human rights violations in Bahrain, resulting in him being in and out of prison since 2012. In one of the three cases against him, in which he faces up to 15 years in prison, Rajab was charged in relation to his social media posts with: “insulting a statutory body”; “spreading rumours in war time”; and “insulting a neighbouring country.” In another of the three cases, Rajab faces up to three years in prison on charges of “spreading false news”, in relation to interviews given to the media. In September 2016, he was charged again with “spreading false news” after the New York Times published a letter in his name.

Rajab has spent nine and a half of the past twelve months in solitary confinement. In May 2017, the UN Committee Against Torture identified Rajab’s case of concern, and called for his release, as well as all human rights defenders and journalists detained and imprisoned for their work in Bahrain.[1]

We are particularly concerned about Rajab’s health, which continues to deteriorate due to poor conditions and mistreatment. On Wednesday, 5 April 2017, Rajab underwent major surgery at a military hospital. Against medical advice, he was returned to his cell at East Riffa Police Station two days later. The following day he was rushed to the police clinic for emergency treatment. On 7 June, he underwent minor surgery. Rajab’s health prevents him from attending his court hearings. The presiding judge has refused all requests submitted by his lawyers to release him on bail, despite the length of his detention period in solitary confinement and clear evidence about the deteriorating condition of his health.

Urgent international pressure for Nabeel Rajab’s release is needed. We urge the European Union and its Member States to call on Bahrain to end the unlawful detainment of Nabeel Rajab and to release him immediately and unconditionally. As Adam Rajab, Nabeel Rajab’s son notes: “without international pressure we will not see him walk out of prison anytime soon.”

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration,




Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain

Amnesty International


Bahrain Centre for Human Rights

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy


English PEN

European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights

FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Gulf Centre for Human Rights


Index on Censorship

PEN International

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights


[1] Committee against torture, Concluding observations on the second and third periodic reports of Bahrain, adopted by the Committee at its sixtieth session (18 April to 12 May 2017),

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