Bahraini Court Upholds Sentence for Prominent Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First said that today’s appeal verdict upholding a six-month jail sentence against leading Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab reinforces the need for President Obama to raise human rights concerns during meetings with Gulf leaders at Camp David. The meetings today will include the crown prince of Bahrain.

“If today’s meeting focuses solely on military solutions to fighting extremism, it will have failed in addressing a key driver of violence in the region which is the lack of peaceful ways to express political grievances,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The Camp David Summit is an important opportunity for the president to tell America’s repressive allies in the Gulf that silencing peaceful dissent contradicts their interests in regional security, and the security of the United States.”

Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was arrested on April 2 after tweeting information about reports of torture in the country’s main prison, and about the military attacks in Yemen. He was was sentenced to six months in prison, a sentence that was confirmed in today’s appeal verdict. Rajab spent 2012 to 2014 in prison for his peaceful human rights work.

This verdict comes as a bipartisan group of 45 members of Congress urged President Obama to raise human rights issues during his meetings with Gulf leaders at Camp David today. The call came in a letter to the president sponsored by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Human Rights First has also called on the president to make clear to the Gulf leaders that progress on human rights is essential to the long-term sustainability and effectiveness of joint efforts to combat violent extremism in the region

“The U.S. government has called for the charges against Nabeel to be dropped, but raising this case and others of peaceful dissidents who are wrongly imprisoned directly with the crown prince and the other Gulf leaders would demonstrate that President Obama is serious about human rights,” added Dooley.

For more information, see Human Rights First’s policy blueprints outlining how the United States should promote stability and security in the Gulf region: How to Counter Terrorism by Supporting Civil Society in the United Arab EmiratesHow to Build a More Sustainable and Mutually Beneficial Relationship with Saudi Arabia; and How to Bring Stability to Bahrain.


Published on May 14, 2015


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