6-12-2012By Brian Dooley
Human Rights Defenders
The Bahraini government’s crackdown has no end in sight as leading human rights defenders continue to be targeted. Nabeel Rajab was arrested and detained again last week, only days after being released from custody. Rajab is the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, a leading NGO in Bahrain that documents and publicizes human rights violations in the country. The work of Rajab and the Center has been consistently acknowledged by international human rights organizations, and within just the last year, won the Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty and the Ion Ratiu Democracy Award.Charged with multiple offences, Rajab is to spend at least a week in custody. According to his lawyer, these include taking part in an illegal gathering and tweeting criticism of the government.
Other defenders have also been targets of government harassment. Last weekend, a film went up on the internet showing leading human rights lawyer Mohammed al Tajer in bed with his wife. The government had informed al Tajer that it had videotaped him and his wife in bed, and last year he reported the incident to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, a government-appointed investigation into the human rights crackdown of early last year. The Commission reported he told them “he received threats, that he was videotaped sleeping with his wife and that he was threatened that this tape would be made public.”
Al Tajer has a long history of defending human rights activists in the country. He was arrested on April 15 last year, tortured and detained for three months. He was brought before a military tribunal on June 12, 2011 on charges that included inciting hatred against the regime. He was released on bail on August 6 but the government is still pressing charges, with the next court hearing scheduled for June 26.
He said government officials tried to blackmail him with the tape early last year but he refused to stop his criticism of the regime. In May this year, he traveled to Geneva with other human rights defenders for the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal periodic Review (UPR) of Bahrain. He and others spoke about the regime’s crackdown. Threats against the activists in the Bahrain media while they were still in Geneva led the President of the Human Rights Council, Laura Dupuy Lasserre, to publicly remind the Bahrain regime that “…intimidation is inconsistent with this spirit of democratic participation….we are all duty bound to ensure that nobody is persecuted on his return to his country for having participated in meetings of the human rights council or other bodies,” and cited Al Tajer as someone who had received the threats.
A few days later the tape was released on the internet. “It was the National Security Agency who did this,” Al Tajer told Human Rights First. “They still follow me regularly. At first when they released the tape it was very painful, but in a way a relief because I had been living with this threat for over a year. And I never compromised my principles; I never gave into the blackmail, and never refused to back down on my human rights work.