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IFEX condemns verdict in Bahraini rights defender's case

Nabeel Rajab with his family in Bahrain prior to his detention in 2012
Nabeel Rajab with his family in Bahrain prior to his detention in 2012


(IFEX) 11 December 2012 – IFEX, the largest global network of free expression organisations, joins other human rights organisations worldwide to condemn the verdict upholding the prison sentence of well-known human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, President of IFEX member the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR). An appeals court in Manama today reduced the sentence from three years to two years in prison for calling for and participating in peaceful gatherings on three occasions.

“If the Kingdom of Bahrain is interested in improving its image abroad, now is the time to free human rights defenders like Nabeel who are in jail merely for exercising their right to free expression and free assembly,” said Annie Game, Executive Director of IFEX. “Money spent on public relations companies and celebrity visits would be better spent taking action on the recommendations of the United Nations and the inquiry mandated by the King, which called for an end to the detention of prisoners of opinion.”

IFEX supported a mission by the Avocats Sans Frontieres (ASF) Network to observe Rajab's trial, in cooperation with the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), of which Rajab is Director. The trial was also observed by Amina Bouayach, the Vice-President of the International League for Human Rights (FIDH), of which Rajab is Deputy Secretary General.

IFEX welcomes the efforts of the British Embassy and other embassies from Europe and the US who also observed the trial, and the willingness of local embassies to cooperate with Rajab's trial observers.

On 16 August 2012, IFEX joined Rajab's family and many human rights groups in calling for his immediate release. With little notice, the judge ruled that day in three cases related to Rajab's participation in peaceful protests, and handed down a one-year jail sentence in each. IFEX further called for his release in October, when Rajab appeared in court.

Along with dozens of other human rights groups, IFEX lobbied the Bahrain government to implement recommendations from Bahrain's Universal Periodic Review, adopted at the United Nations in September, as well as the reforms promised after the 14 February 2011 crackdown through the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). Over 100 NGOs joined an appeal in May to free human rights defenders, including Rajab in Bahrain.

Other local human rights activists who are also currently jailed, some for life, include BCHR founder Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and his daughter Zainab Al-Khawaja, sentenced to one month in prison for participating in an “illegal gathering” yesterday, 10 December, International Human Rights Day. She was already jailed on 9 December for one week after demanding that Aqeel Abdulmoshen, a young Bahraini man shot in the face by security forces in his car, should be allowed access to his family while in hospital.

Rajab represents various human rights organisations and is the winner of numerous accolades. As well as leading the BCHR and GCHR, and representing the FIDH, he is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO) and a member of the Middle East and North Africa Advisory Board of Human Rights Watch, an IFEX member.

He is the winner of the prestigious 2011 Ion Ratiu Democracy Award, presented annually by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. BCHR won the 2012 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Advocacy Award, which Rajab accepted on behalf of the organisation. Rajab was also supposed to be in the US last week on behalf of BCHR to accept the Human Rights First 2012 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty. The award was presented last week to Maryam Al-Khawaja, acting President of BCHR. Together with the Al-Khawajas, Rajab was named as one of Foreign Policy's 100 Global Thinkers in 2012.

On 30 November, during a speech honouring FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen as a Knight of the French Legion of Honour, French President François Hollande saluted Rajab and all FIDH representatives “who are behind bars today simply for asking that justice be done.”

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