The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is deeply concerned about the ongoing pretrial detention of its President Nabeel Rajab, who has been detained for 326 days on multiple charges. His next court appearances are on 16 and 17 May. BCHR is also concerned about the deterioration of Rajab’s health; he remains in hospital after being admitted on 8 April following complications after surgery, and suffers from a number of health issues.
On 5 April 2017, Rajab underwent surgery, and according to updates from family members, was forced to wear dirty clothing soaked with blood and not provided with access to hygiene products, despite having a deep surgical wound at risk of infection. Two days after the surgery Rajab was returned to solitary confinement, and was therefore put in a position of increased risk of medical complications due to unsanitary prison conditions.
Three days after he underwent surgery, on 8 April, Rajab became increasingly unwell and shortly after his family visit was rushed to Qalaa police hospital for emergency treatment. Rajab is receiving treatment related to complications following his surgery, after the wound became infected.
At the time of writing, Rajab remains in Qaala clinic. The medical center is not a public hospital but a division of the Ministry of Interior. According to information received by BCHR, his weakened immune system is slowing down the recovery process. Rajab remains under the supervision of Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) officers at all times. Family members are allowed to visit the facility and speak to him on a regular basis.
Prior to his most recent surgery, and in his current period of detention, Rajab was treated for gallbladder disease; he underwent a surgical cholecystectomy due to biliary colic and recurrent abdominal pain. Rajab also has a history of other medical conditions, including hypertension, gastritis, and degenerative disc disease. All of these conditions require timely, adequate and consistent medical care.
Rajab is President of BCHR, as well as Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human RIghts (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Advisory Committee. He has been relentlessly persecuted for his human rights activities and jailed repeatedly on charges in violation of his right to freedom of expression.
On 2 April 2015, Rajab was interrogated and subsequently charged for allegedly “spreading rumours in wartime,” “insulting a neighbouring country,” and “insulting a statutory body.” These charges related to tweets and retweets concerning the war on Yemen, and allegations of torture in Bahrain’s Jau prison. The first hearing for these charges was held on 12 July 2016. The trial was adjourned for the twelfth time on 22 March 2017, and rescheduled for 17 May 2017. Rajab is facing 15 years in prison if convicted of these charges. The court ordered the release of Rajab during his 8th hearing in December 2016 prior to its adjournment; however, he was immediately rearrested on new charges in relation to televised interviews he gave to members of the media in 2015.
Charges in the second case against Rajab include allegedly spreading false information and malicious rumours about domestic matters with the aim of discrediting and adversely affecting the prestige of the state. The first hearing for this case was held on 23 January 2017. The trial has subsequently been postponed more than five times, and is now scheduled for 16 May 2017. If convicted of these charges Rajab is facing a prison sentence of three years.
If convicted on all of the above charges Rajab faces a total of up to 18 years in prison.
Rajab has also been charged for offences relating to articles he published in the French newspaper Le Monde, and the New York Times whilst imprisoned. Rajab is currently awaiting trial on these charges, and no trial dates have been set. Charges include allegedly “intentionally broadcasting false news and malicious rumours abroad impairing the prestige of the state,” and “spread[ing] false information and tendentious rumours” that insult Bahrain and the Gulf Cooperation Council states and harm their relations. Both of these cases remain with the Office of the Public Prosecution.
The multiple charges against Rajab violate the universally recognised right to freedom of expression, and are indicative of the ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders, journalists, and members of civil society in Bahrain. The use of extensive pretrial detention contravenes international legal standards requiring detainees to be tried in a timely manner.
BCHR strongly condemns the continued detention of Nabeel Rajab, and the inhumane and degrading treatment to which he has been subjected. BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain to release Nabeel Rajab, and to ensure that he, and other political prisoners are provided with adequate medical care.
BCHR further urges the international community to continue to press for the release of Nabeel Rajab and other political prisoners, to call on Bahrain to respect and uphold basic human rights, and to provide adequate and timely medical care to detainees.
You can follow updates on Nabeel Rajab’s case here.