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UN Investigations: Widespread and Systematic Imprisonment May Constitute Crimes against Humanity

Nabeel Rajab
Nabeel Rajab

2018-08-22 - 9:55 am

Bahrain Mirror: The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in the UN considered the deprivation of liberty of Nabeel Rajab, in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and due to discrimination based on political or other opinion and on his position as a leading human rights defender. It also considered it a clear ignorance to the equality of human beings.

The working group called on Bahrain, in a special report about Nabeel Rajab, to take appropriate measure to address this violation, immediately release Nabeel Rajab and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.

The group regretted in the report that it did not receive a response from the Government to a communication it had sent to inquire about Rajab's state.

It also considered that Rajab's deprivation of liberty is arbitrary and reiterated that the courts of Bahrain, in order to ensure the right to a fair trial, would have to confront and rule on the matter of the constitutionality and legality of the law banning public demonstrations, and, in the present case, the restriction of freedom of expression. Denials of a universally accepted human right to freedom of opinion and expression should not be meekly condoned by a domestic court.

The Working Group established that Rajab's arrest, detention, prosecution and imprisonment resulted from his exercise of the right to freedom of thought and expression. It added that it cannot help but notice that Rajab's political views and convictions are clearly at the center of the present case and that the authorities have displayed an attitude towards him that can only be characterized as "discriminatory"; indeed, he has been the target of persecution, including deprivation of liberty, for many years and there is no other explanation for this except that he is exercising his right to express such views and convictions.

The group considered that these provisions of the Penal Code are so vague and overly broad that they could, as in the present case, result in penalties being imposed on individuals who had merely exercised their rights under international law. Moreover, it considered that, in some circumstances, laws may be so vague and overly broad that it is impossible to invoke a legal basis justifying the deprivation of liberty.

The Working Group reiterated that it would welcome the opportunity to conduct a country visit to Bahrain, in accordance with the request that it made on 17 January 2017, so that it can engage with the Government constructively and offer assistance in addressing the serious concerns that it has relating to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

The Bahraini authorities arrested Nabeel Rajab, detained and convicted him over claims of spreading false news abroad which damages the national interest, spreading false rumors in wartime, insulting governing authorities and insulting a foreign country, based on tweets in which he criticized war on Yemen.

The present case is one of several brought before the Working Group in the past five years concerning the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of persons in Bahrain. The Working Group wished to emphasize that no such trial of Rajab should have taken place or take place in the future. However, he continues to be the subject of criminal proceedings, and the source has submitted arguments relating to violation of his right to a fair trial.

The Working Group referred the present case to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, for appropriate action. It also referred the case to the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights - the senior official designated by the Secretary-General to lead the efforts within the United Nations system to address intimidation and reprisals against those cooperating with the United Nations on human rights matters.

The group explained that it received several cases related to arbitrary deprivation of freedom and found that the Bahraini authorities violated their human rights obligations in 21 cases.

The Working Group stressed that widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of the rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity.

Arabic Version