Bahraini Court to Issue Appeal Verdict in Case of Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab
Washington, D.C. – As a Bahraini court is due to decide tomorrow on the appeal in the case of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, Human Rights First urged the Bahraini government to immediately drop all charges against him. Rajab is appealing a January 20 verdict, when he was sentenced to six-months in prison for criticizing the Bahrain security forces on Twitter.
“Nothing says panic quite like jailing someone for critical tweets,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “For many years now we’ve seen the Bahraini authorities overreact to peaceful dissent and attempt to stop criticism by jailing their critics. The only result has been greater instability and unrest. The case against Nabeel should be dismissed, as Bahrain’s military ally the United States has called for.”
Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was arrested in September 2014 after sending out a tweet reading, “many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism #ISIS came from security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator.” Rajab spent from mid-2012 to mid-2014 in prison for his peaceful criticism of the regime.
Four years since the mass uprisings for democratic reform in Bahrain began on February 14, a small elite headed by a ruling family still governs the country. Although the State Department has called for the charges against Rajab to be dropped, the Obama Administration has generally offered only muted criticism of Bahrain’s violent crackdown. The United States should do more to press for the reform Bahrain needs to achieve the stability the kingdom requires.
Tomorrow at a congressional briefing hosted by Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-2), Human Rights First will release a new policy blueprint, outlining recommendations for the U.S. government to press Bahrain to respect human rights and the rule of law. Key recommendations for the Obama Administration in the forthcoming blueprint include:
- Address corruption by Bahrain government officials by invoking its powers under Presidential Proclamation 7750, which allows the United States to deny visas to officials believed to be involved in corruption and to their dependents;
- Insist on the integration of Shias into the virtually exclusively Sunni security forces by refusing to train Sunni-only groups of officers; and
- Publicly call for the release of political leaders, and state that the trials which put them in jail – and which U.S. observers witnessed – fell short of international legal standards.
“There’s plenty the United States, can do, and do today, to push Bahrain towards reform and away from its current path to volatility,” said Dooley. “It just needs to find the political will to do it.”