Bahraini Human Rights Defender Rajab Appeal Verdict Slated for December 11
Washington, DC – Human Rights First today called on the Bahraini authorities to unconditionally release human rights defender Nabeel Rajab at his appeal hearing tomorrow. “Judicial harassment continues against prominent members of Bahrain’s civil society,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “If the Bahraini government is serious about reform, it could start by releasing its human rights defenders from prison.” Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), is currently in jail serving a three-year sentence for his part in “illegal gatherings” and is expecting an appeal verdict in the morning. Earlier today, prominent Bahraini activist Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to a month in prison for taking part in an illegal protest. She has been charged with a series of offenses related to peaceful protests and faces multiple hearings this month. Yesterday, she was arrested at the Salmaniya Medical Complex while demanding visitation rights for a family of a young boy who was injured while attending a pro-democracy protest last week. In October 2012, Al-Khawaja was freed after serving a two-month jail term for destroying government property. In that case she tore a picture of Bahrain’s King Hamad. This past weekend, Bahrain hosted the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) conference in Manama, the “Manama Dialogue.” Several senior U.S. officials attended the conference and met with Bahraini civil society figures. Human Rights First urges the U.S. government to take a stronger public line of criticism against Bahrain’s continued targeting of human rights defenders. “As early as this week, the U.S. Congress will discuss an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would require the United States to report in detail on the human rights crisis in Bahrain. This should act as a starting point for a new approach from the U.S. government to its relationship with Bahrain,” said Dooley. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) was selected by Human Rights First to receive the 2012 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty. The award was presented at the organization’s annual Human Rights Summit last week to Maryam Al-Khawaja, acting President of BCHR.