Tuesday, July 14, 2015CJFE is encouraged by yesterday’s pardon and release of Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa for “health reasons.” Rajab had served four months of a six-month sentence on charges of insulting the Ministry of Interior stemming from a September 2014 tweet in which he alleged that many Bahrainis who joined Islamist militant groups were ideologically incubated in the country’s security services. While CJFE celebrates Rajab’s freedom, the pardon ignores the fact that Rajab’s conviction and imprisonment were fundamentally unjust and based on his peaceful work in defence of human rights and free expression in Bahrain. Further, Rajab continues to face charges of “spreading false news” and “insulting a statutory body” in relation to tweets he published about Saudi Arabian air strikes in Yemen and torture in Bahrain’s prisons. These charges carry a combined penalty of up to ten years imprisonment and constitute a clear violation of Rajab’s free expression rights. This is not the first time that Rajab has been imprisoned for speaking out about human rights in Bahrain and the Gulf—the cofounder of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and president of IFEX-member organization the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) previously spent two years in prison for criticizing the Bahraini government and calling for peaceful demonstrations on Twitter in 2012. CJFE strongly urges the government of Bahrain to drop all remaining charges against Nabeel Rajab and to cease the judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders in Bahrain. We also echo the European Parliament’s resolution on Bahrain, passed on July 9, which—among other things—calls for the “unconditional release of all human rights defenders, political activists” and prisoners of conscience in the country.
This letter of concern was sent to His Excellency Shaikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Khalifa, Ambassador of Bahrain to Washington D.C. with concurrent accreditation to Canada. Cc: Mr. Tom MacDonald, Ambassador of Canada to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain and Oman The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.P., M.P., Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs