Bahrain Mirror- Exclusive: Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said that 13 British MEPs and human rights organization believe that "the Foreign & Commonwealth Office's silence on the sentencing of human rights figure Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain has been called "appalling" in a letter to the Foreign Secretary."
The letter read "It is appalling that while the FCO recognizes the brave work of human rights defenders worldwide, it has turned a blind eye to the human rights abuses in Bahrain, including the reprisals against Mr. Rajab." The signatories pointed out to the FCO's Human Rights and Democracy Report, published last month, which applauds the work of human rights defenders globally and state that silence on Rajab's case contradicts policies to support human rights defenders.
Despite British Embassy representatives regularly attending Rajab's trials, the 10 July sentence, which clearly violated his freedom of expression, went unremarked on for over two weeks. On 26 July, the FCO stated in response to a parliamentary question: "We note the two year sentence given to him and understand there are further steps in the judicial process, including the right of appeal."
The FCO's response evaded providing an opinion on Rajab's sentence and compares unfavorably with its response to a previous sentence Rajab received in 2012 on similar charges related to his expression.
The rights groups told the Foreign Secretary today: "British silence on this case contradicts FCO support for human rights defenders internationally and the FCO's own past record on Mr. Rajab's case. We urge you to overturn this policy of silence and support Nabeel Rajab and all human rights defenders in Bahrain ... by condemning his sentence and calling on the Government of Bahrain for his immediate and unconditional release and the dropping of all pending charges against him."
The letter was signed by Article 19, English PEN, FIDH, Front Line Defenders, Index on Censorship, the Jimmy Wales Foundation, PEN International, Reporters Without Borders and World Organisation Against Torture, alongside the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Bahrain Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Gulf Centre for Human Rights and European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights. The letter was also signed by Sue Willman, Director of Deighton Pierce Glynn, Julie Ward MEP and Tom Brake MP.
While the UK was initially silent on Rajab's sentence, key allies of Bahrain including the United States and the European Union as well as Germany and Norway called for Rajab's release shortly after the ruling. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights' office called for his unconditional release.