IFEX, the global network of 119 organisations dedicated to promoting and defending the right to freedom of expression and information, is deeply concerned about the continued detention of IFEX member and Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, and urgently calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him from jail.
Nabeel Rajab has been a defender for freedom of expression for over 15 years, and has worked tirelessly to champion human rights both in Bahrain and across the Gulf. In 2000, together with other individuals involved in Bahrain's activist circles, Rajab founded the Bahrain Human Rights Society, one of the first human rights organisations in the island nation. Since then, he has helped found and run two well-respected and independent civil society groups; the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Gulf Center for Human Rights. Both groups are members of the IFEX network.
On 13 June 2016, the authorities arrested Rajab in a series of repressive actions to severely restrict the work of civil society in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Since then, Rajab continues to be held in pre-trial detention and has faced multiple trials and charges for exercising his right to freedom of expression. If convicted, Rajab could be facing a sentence of up to 18 years in prison.
Consigning our colleague Nabeel Rajab to a prison cell illustrates how freedom of expression is seen as a threat, and not a right, by authorities in Bahrain. This unjust confinement of a decent and committed person does not go unnoticed by the world and will not go unchallenged by all of us who respect human rights.
Annie Game, Executive Director of IFEX.
Since his arrest, Rajab's case has received widespread international attention by government officials and UN dignitaries, by Special Rapporteur on Free Expression David Kaye, by the spokesperson of the US State Department, the spokesperson of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, as well as by members of the European Parliament, which adopted an urgency resolution condemning the Bahraini authorities' crackdown on civil society and on the political opposition.
So far the government in Bahrain has repeatedly demonstrated unwillingness to comply with international legal standards, despite promises made at the United Nations during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2012, and during its own national inquiry, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). However, the recommendations of the recently concluded 2017 UPR of Bahrain provide the government with an opportunity to re-evaluate its adherence to international human rights standards.
We therefore urge Bahrain to demonstrate allegiance to the principles of democracy and human rights by taking a stance in safeguarding freedom of expression in Bahrain, as enshrined in international human rights legislation, and drop all charges against Nabeel Rajab, who defends this right, and ensure his immediate and unconditional release.