By Sondoss Al Asaad

Nabeel Rajab: The voice of the voiceless

February 23, 2018

BEIRUT - Nabeel Rajab, a Bahraini prominent human rights advocate, is serving a pre-trail detention for exercising his right to freedom of expression, amid the international calls to immediately and unconditionally release him. The Bahraini authorities detained Rajab in relation to his activism, and to statements he post on twitter. Rajab had been found guilty of ‘spreading rumours and untruthful information’ against the Bahraini government in TV interviews.

 On 15 January 2018, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation upheld the two-year sentence of Rajab for the case related to his participation in televised interviews. The Twitter case is adjourned the final hearing rescheduled to 21 February, for the 20th time since his detention on 13 June 2016.

Without a doubt, the trails of Rajab and many other human rights defenders in Bahrain illustrate the deterioration of the levels of freedom of expression, which has become, according to the authorities, a crime instead of being a right. Rajab faces a series of repressive trials and charges, and if convicted, he could be sentenced up to 18 years behind bars.

 These charges involved the peaceful exercise of internationally protected rights to freedom of expression, which Bahrain acceded to. Indeed, Rajab’s arrest contravenes his rights to freedom of expression and association, as protected by articles 19 and 22 of the International Protocol on Civil and Political Rights.
Rajab has been a human rights defender for over 15 years, in Bahrain and across the gulf, and he founded the Bahrain Human Rights Center. Charges brought against him have significantly hampered his active struggle, however, his great determination and unbreakable steadiness is abundant, and he has repeatedly demonstrated his firm stance to endure until the last breath, "I've spent a great part of my time in jail for the last few years because of my criticism against the government. However, it is a price I'm willing to pay for the freedom I'm fighting for".

So far, Bahrain has repeatedly showed unwillingness to comply with international legal standards, despite its promise to the United Nation and to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. The recommendations of 2017-UPR has urged the Bahraini government to "re-evaluate its adherence to international human rights standards".

Dimitris Christopoulos, president of the Paris-based group, emphasised that Rajab is not only a human rights defender but also a man of intellectual value who should not be in jail. He added that he expects the Bahraini authorities to understand that violating the fundamental human rights of rights defenders is not the way to proceed. He warned that Rajab could face an even longer jail term for a separate case he faces.

Nabeel Rajab's arrest has received widespread international attention, and it should not go unnoticed and unchallenged. The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, warned Bahrain: "Repression will not eliminate people’s grievances; it will increase them". Rajab has been prosecuted repeatedly since the 2011 Arab Spring, on charges based on his activism, posts on social media, and televised interviews, "organizing unauthorized protests, insulting the government, insulting the Central Jau Prison administration, insulting a statutory body, undermining the war in Yemen, spreading false news, offending a foreign country", and much more.
 
Human rights groups have roundly condemned Rajab’s verdict, which illustrates the corruption of the Bahraini justice system. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) urged the government to immediately release Rajab.

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