European Parliament Calls for Nabeel Rajab’s Release
By Anita Dhanvanthari
Today, the European Parliament (EP) passed an urgent resolution calling for the release of imprisoned human rights defenders in Bahrain. One such defender, Nabeel Rajab, faces up to ten years in behind bars.
In 2012, Rajab was jailed for two years for “inciting protests.” Shortly after his release in May 2014, Rajab was once again imprisoned—this time, for tweeting. The government claimed the tweets insulted Bahrain’s regime and its security.
The EP resolution—which a large majority of parliament members supported—demands that the Bahraini government immediately release Rajab and drop all charges against him. It also demands the “unconditional release of all human rights defenders, political activists and other individuals detained and charged with alleged violations related to the rights of expression, peaceful assembly and association.” It urges Bahrain to abide by its international human rights obligations.
The recently released State Department Bahrain 2014 Human Rights Report reveals the dire human rights condition in the country. The report documents instances of mistreatment of detainees, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, denial of fair legal procedures, torture, and unlawful killings.
Human Rights First and other human rights groups have called for Rajab’s release and have frequently voiced concern over Bahrain’s many human rights violations. Following protests for democratic reforms that began in 2011, Bahrain cracked down on opposition leaders and anti-government protestors. In response to Bahrain’s actions, the United States placed holds on its security assistance to the Bahrain Defense Force and National Guard.
But just ten days ago, in a controversial decision, the State Department lifted its ban on security assistance, resuming arms sales to the kingdom. The administration stated that although the human rights situation in Bahrain is not “adequate,” “Bahrain has made some meaningful progress on human rights reforms and reconciliation.” Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley condemned this decision, noting its likely adverse effects.
The Obama Administration needs to pressure Bahrain to stop punishing human rights defenders and political activists for exercising their right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression. Bahrain should follow the EP’s decision and immediately release Rajab and other imprisoned defenders and political activists. Preventing freedom of speech benefits neither the government nor its citizens.