The following statement was originally published on bahrainrights.org on 18 November 2016.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses deep concern about the recent summoning of human rights defender Hussain Radhi, a member of BCHR's documentation team. BCHR condemns the continued judicial harassment directed against human rights defenders, including Hussain Radhi, for exercising the right to freedom of expression online,
Hussain Radhi was recently charged by the Public Prosecution with “inciting hatred against the regime, threatening civil peace and publishing false news.” He was summoned to appear on 17 November 2016 in front of the Public Prosecution to be interrogated over tweets and retweets. These tweets allegedly documented protests in Bahraini villages, the suppression of protests by the authorities, the arrests of protesters or activists, the siege on the village of Duraz, and some tweets regarding statements made by UN experts about religious discrimination in Bahrain. Radhi denied all the charges brought against him.
Radhi had been notified that he was being charged just before the 33rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council began in September. On 23 August 2016, the authorities banned Radhi from traveling as he was attempting to leave Bahrain to participate in the UNHRC's 33rd Session in Geneva. He was informed by the airport staff that the travel ban was based on an order of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). When Radhi requested the removal of the ban by the Public Prosecution, his request was rejected and, on top of that, he was informed that he was being charged for remarks he had allegedly made on Twitter.
Bahraini authorities have targeted Radhi in the past. On 12 June 2016, the authorities also prevented him from travelling to attend the UNHRC's 32nd Session in Geneva. In February 2015, Radhi was tried for charges of “illegal assembly” in Manama, but was eventually acquitted. He had previously been arrested on 25 January 2013 in a similar case, when he was monitoring protests and human rights violations as part of his human rights work, and was kept in detention for more than two weeks.
The case of Radhi is one among many other human rights defenders who have been summoned, charged or tried for exercising their right to freedom of expression. In the past few days, four other key members of BCHR have been summoned and interrogated by the Public Prosecution. Security forces surrounded the house of BCHR's Advocacy Officer, Asma Darwish, to summon her for interrogation over “illegal assembly”; although Darwish has been living abroad for over a year now. Nedal Al-Salman, BCHR's Head of International Relations and Women & Children's Rights Advocacy, was interrogated on 15 November 2016 over charges of illegal gathering. The same goes for Enas Oun, Head of BCHR's Documentation Unit, who was summoned on 13 November 2016 and accused of organizing an assembly on June 2016 in the Al-Dair area. Ahmad Al-Saffar, member of BCHR and human rights defender, was also interrogated by the Public Prosecution on 13 November, and charged with “illegal assembly.” Following the interrogations, all three were released.
Nabeel Rajab, well-known human rights defender and President of BCHR, has been detained for 158 days since his arrest on 13 June 2016; he is awaiting his trial on 15 December 2016 at the High Criminal Court. Rajab was charged with allegations related to tweets and retweets about human rights violations, and for the op-ed article from the New York Times. If convicted, Rajab could face up to 15 years in prison.
BCHR is alarmed with the on-going and escalated targeting of its members through travel bans, summoning and prosecution. These reprisal measures negatively impact the possibility of our human rights defenders to pursue their work, for fear of being arbitrarily accused of a criminal offense.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the Government of Bahrain to:
- Stop all kinds of harassment against human rights defender Hussain Radhi; and
- Cease targeting BCHR’s members, and all human rights defenders who peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression.