Irish Lawyer Attended Trial of Nabeel Rajab and Others: None was Allowed to Speak…It was Astonishing

2018-05-19 - 11:21 م

Bahrain Mirror- Exclusive: International organizations said that an Irish lawyer they sent to observe the trial hearing of human rights activist Nabeel Rajab issued a report in which she said that the judicial measures in his trial were unjust and that they violate Bahrain's Constitution and international conventions on human rights.

The trial was concluded with the issuing of a 5-year prison term against Rajab.

During her mission, the observer met with Nabeel Rajab's lawyer Jalila Al-Sayed at her office to discuss the case and the trial procedure, and attended the trial of Nabeel Rajab on 21 February 2018, along with international observers.

This trial observation mission report looks at Nabeel Rajab's trial process culminating with a five-year sentence on 21 February 2018, the compliance with international human rights treaties and the general human rights situation on the ground in Bahrain.

On the morning of 21 February 2018, the observer attended Bahrain Central Criminal Court and met with Nabeel Rajab's legal team and diplomats from the United States, United Kingdom and German Embassies. The observer presented a copy of her passport and her legal professional identification to the security staff outside the court. She waited outside the court with the diplomatic representatives for approximately 15 minutes before they were granted access to the court.

She said in her report that the atmosphere in the court was tense and apprehensive. The prisoners were detained to the left behind a protective screen. The observer could see Nabeel Rajab, who looked tired. Whilst waiting for Nabeel Rajab's case to be called, the observer was able to watch approximately ten other defendants who had their cases heard. Most striking was that the defendants were not permitted to speak.

When Nabeel Rajab's case was called it followed the same process; as his name was called, he approached the partitioning screen and his legal team approached a bench below the judges. The judge spoke, but neither the legal representatives nor the defendant got an opportunity to speak, which contravene international standards of due process. After a very brief hearing of only two minutes, Nabeel Rajab was escorted from the court - he smiled and gestured the sign for perseverance (Sumood) as he left.

The lawyer noted that Rajab was sentenced on the same day as over ten other defendants, and in none of the cases were the defendants allowed to speak.

The observer subsequently commented that as a lawyer, she "found the experience both unusual and unsettling," saying that the fact that someone could be sentenced to a five-year prison term without his legal team having uttered a single word in his defence was astonishing."

She further stated that Nabeel Rajab's health has steadily worsened since his detention in 2016, noting that there are serious concerns over how much more his already fragile health can sustain. If such degrading and inhumane treatment of Nabeel Rajab continues there is a very real risk that he may die in prison.

The observer didn't reveal her aim behind her visit to Bahrain. She made an application for a temporary visa. From the experience of the NGOs that organized the mission, the observer knew that she would not be allowed to access the country if she revealed that she was planning to attend Nabeel Rajab's trial.

As documented by the observer, the trial which led to his latest sentence was marred by numerous irregularities and fell short of international fair trial standards.

The observer concluded, "As a lawyer it should be my right to be able to enter a court room and to observe the legal process of that jurisdiction. Whilst I was not prevented from doing so I did feel that my presence was not welcomed or appreciated either upon arrival at the airport or at the court buildings."

In view of the report submitted by the Irish observer, the organizations urged the Bahraini authorities to guarantee in all circumstances Nabeel Rajab's physical and psychological integrity and that of all human rights defenders in Bahrain and release Nabeel Rajab immediately and unconditionally, as his detention is arbitrary and its conditions amount to ill-treatment and are endangering his life.

They also called on the authorities to ensure that representatives of Bahraini and international NGOs and diplomatic missions have access to Nabeel Rajab in prison; provide him with adequate medical care while in prison and put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and against all human rights defenders in Bahrain. The organizations also urged to ensure that all judicial proceedings against him are carried out in full compliance with his right to a fair trial as protected under international human rights law.

They indicated that his trial should conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly.

The organizations noted the need to ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain, as well as implementing the recommendations of the UN CAT; and allow foreign delegations, including parliamentarians, NGOs and UN and EU representatives, to enter Bahrain to visit detained human rights defenders, observe their trials and meet with officials to discuss the human rights situation in Bahrain.

In view of the report, the organizations urged the EU, UN and countries with diplomatic representation in Bahrain to continue to raise the case of Nabeel Rajab and other detained human rights defenders including Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja with the Bahrain Government; request and conduct visits of Nabeel Rajab until his release and attend the trials of Nabeel Rajab and other human rights defenders, protest when they are imprisoned in contravention of international law, and call for their immediate and unconditional release.

The organizations supervising the observation mission and that issued the report are the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT), Front Line Defenders, English PEN, and Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

Arabic Version