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Upholding Verdict against Rajab is Flagrant Disregard for Human Rights, Miscarriage of Justice: HRW

2019-01-03 - 1:18 am

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): The Bahrain Court of Cassation, the country's court of last resort, on December 31, 2018 upheld a five-year sentence for Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights defender, an act that was condemned by Human Rights Watch.

"Nabeel Rajab's conviction for his refusal to stay silent on the government's rights abuses is further proof of the Bahrain authorities' flagrant disregard for human rights," said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Nabeel Rajab should not have been arrested in the first place, and upholding his sentence is a grave miscarriage of justice."

 "Bahrain has chosen to mark the new year by entrenching it attacks on human rights defenders and undermining free expression," said Fakih. "But Bahrain cannot hide its abuses from public critique by jailing dissidents. Bahraini rights defenders are not backing down." 

Authorities first arrested Rajab on April 2, 2015 because of his tweets alleging torture in Bahrain's Jaw Prison. He was released provisionally on humanitarian grounds on July 13, 2015, but re-arrested on July 13, 2016, for criticizing the Bahraini authorities' refusal to allow journalists and rights groups into the country. A court sentenced him in July 2017 to two years for this criticism, which the Court of Cassation upheld on January 15, 2018. Rajab completed this sentence in July.

On February 21, Bahrain's criminal court sentenced Rajab to five years in prison for tweeting in 2015 about torture in the Jaw Prison and criticizing the Saudi-led military campaign on Yemen. The Manama Appeals Court upheld Rajab's five-year sentence on June 5. He appealed this decision on July 5.

On August 13, 2018, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) published an opinion regarding the legality of Rajab's detention. The WGAD concluded that the detention was not only arbitrary, as it resulted from his exercise of his right to free speech, but also discriminatory, based on his political opinions and status as a human rights defender. The WGAD therefore stated that Rajab's detention violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Bahrain ratified in 2006. The WGAD requested the Bahraini government to "release Mr. Rajab immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law."

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