State Department Should Call for Release of Bahraini Human Rights Defender Rajab
Washington, D.C.—In advance of July 10th’s expected verdict against leading Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, Human Rights First today called on the U.S. Department of State to demand his immediate and unconditional release. Rajab is charged with a series of free speech-related incidents for comments he made regarding Bahrain’s human rights record. He has been in custody for over one year, including the last three months spent in a HOSPITAL recuperating from surgery. If convicted Rajab faces a three-year sentence.
“The Obama Administration openly and repeatedly called for Rajab’s release, but under President Trump the State Department has fallen silent publicly,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The White House has also lifted human rights conditions—including Rajab’s release—on the sale of weapons to Bahrain’s dictatorship. If this administration wants stability in Bahrain it should resist human rights abuses, not enable them.”
Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, also faces charges in a separate case concerning Tweets on allegations of torture in Bahrain and the crisis in Yemen, for which he could receive 15 years imprisonment.
In May President Trump met with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa during a visit to Saudi Arabia, where he told him, “We’re going to have a very, very long-term relationship. I look forward to it very much—many of the same things in common.” The Trump Administration has lifted human rights ties imposed by the Obama Administration on the sales of F-16s to Bahrain, despite ongoing targeting and repression of human rights defenders, civil society, and peaceful opposition leaders in Bahrain. Human Rights First has long called upon the White House and Congress to press Bahrain to release peaceful dissidents such as Rajab and to engage in meaningful political dialogue.
“Rajab has been subjected to a sham trial and not been allowed to attend some of his own hearings. Silencing peaceful dissent will only encourage violent protest, and make Bahrain an even more dangerous place,” added Dooley.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights was awarded the 2012 Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty by Human Rights First.