NGOs Welcome European Parliament Resolution on Nabeel Rajab and Bahrain

14 June 2018 – The European Parliament (EP) today adopted a resolution condemning escalating repression in Bahrain and calling on the government to unconditionally release imprisoned human rights defender Nabeel Rajab. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) welcome this strong stance from the EP and reiterate its call on the Bahraini government to immediately release Nabeel Rajab and all other prisoners of conscience.

Led by the Greens/EFA group, the resolution builds on six previous resolutions adopted since 2014 addressing Bahrain’s rapidly deteriorating human rights situation. It is the third EP resolution to specifically concern Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the country’s most prominent human rights defender.

Rajab was arrested exactly two years ago today, on 13 June 2016, for discussing the kingdom’s restrictions on press freedom in media interviews, as well as for tweeting about human rights abuses in Yemen and Bahrain’s Jau Prison. Bahraini courts have since convicted him on both sets of charges, sentencing to him to two years in the first case and five years in the second case – a total of seven years in prison. Rajab was due to be released this month after completing the first sentence, but on 5 June an appeals court upheld his additional five-year term for tweets. Throughout his detention, Bahraini authorities have subjected Rajab to degrading treatment and poor living conditions, resulting in the deterioration of his health and repeated hospitalization. Moreover, the government has indicated that Rajab may face even more cases in reprisal for his human rights work, ensuring that he remains detained indefinitely. Today’s EP resolution calls for Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Rajab and to drop any further charges against him.

The resolution additionally “condemns the on-going crackdown on fundamental democratic rights, notably the freedom of expression, association and assembly, political pluralism, peaceful dissent and rule of law in Bahrain,” and “calls for an immediate release of all those detained solely for their peaceful human rights and political activities; calls for an end of all acts of violence, harassment, intimidation, including at judicial level, and censorship of human rights defenders, political opponents, protesters, civil society actors, their relatives inside and outside the country by state authorities, security forces and services.” It notes that the “situation in Bahrain has become critical regarding freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly,” and that the “increased crackdown against human rights defenders and peaceful opposition activists” is reaching new lows, particularly ahead of the country’s 2018 elections. The EP further deplores Bahrain’s systematic use of torture; resumption of capital punishment; growing number of death sentences; mass denaturalizations; and poor prison conditions, citing other prisoners of conscience like Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, Naji Fateel, Hussain Jawad, Abdulhwahab Husain, and Dr. Adbuljalil al-Singace.

Notably, the EP specifically criticizes Bahrain’s oversight and accountability mechanisms for failing to fulfill their mandates to combat impunity for human rights violations in Bahrain. It explicitly “regrets” that the “EU Delegation’s Chaillot prize for the Promotion of Human Rights in the Gulf Cooperation Council Region was awarded in 2014 to the Bahrain National Institution for Human Rights [NIHR], which has repeatedly justified the human rights violations undertaken by the Bahrain government, including the imprisonment of Nabeel Rajab.” The NIHR has increasingly worked to legitimate all manner of additional abuses, from political repression to extrajudicial killings.

Moreover, among a 17-item list of requests, the EP urges Bahrain to amend the constitution to end military trials for civilians; reinstate dissolved opposition groups like Wa’ad and Al-Wefaq; and reverse a new legal measure that could ban all opposition members from seeking election. It further calls on all European Union (EU) member states to “halt all transfers of weapons, surveillance and intelligence equipment and material that can be used by Bahrain in its ongoing crackdown on human rights.”

ADHRB’s Executive Director, Husain Abdulla: “As Bahrain has slid deeper into dictatorship, its appeasers in Washington and London have controlled the narrative and whitewashed their ally’s crimes. Enough is enough. Europe is taking a clear stand for human rights and democracy in Bahrain. Concerted international pressure is the only thing that will take the Bahraini government off its path of total oppression and secure the release of countless prisoners of conscience like Nabeel Rajab. The individual members of the EU must join this call and help bring an end to the crisis in Bahrain.”

ADHRB, BIRD, and ECDHR endorse the new EP resolution and urge the Government of Bahrain, as well as the EU member states, to immediately meet all of its requests.