On June 13, 2016, Bahrain authorities arrested and detained Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights activist and the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. During the raid, authorities also seized the activist’s electronic devices without explanation, according to his family.
Rajab’s arrest comes one week after the recently released, Bahraini activist, Zainab Al-Khawaja, left Bahrain for Denmark because of the government’s threats to imprison her again. Al-Khawaja’s exile and Rajab’s arrest are likely timed to prevent them from traveling to Geneva for the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), taking place June 13-July 1, 2016. Travel bans were also imposed – without explanation – on several other human rights defenders attempting to leave Bahrain for the UNHRC meeting. Rajab’s travel ban has been in effect for nearly one year, and he has been a target of government harassment since establishing the Bahrain Center for Human Rights in 2002.
In May 2014, Rajab was freed after serving two years in prison for organizing and participating in illegal protests. In January 2015, Rajab was sentenced to six additional months in jail over remarks considered insulting to the kingdom’s security establishment. He appealed against the verdict, but an appeals court confirmed the ruling in May 2015. After serving four months in jail, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa ordered Rajab’s release by special pardon due to his poor health.
Bahrain is a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and has committed to upholding the freedom of movement and freedom of expression rights. Despite this, the government of Bahrain has continued to violate international human rights with frightful repression. The World Movement for Democracy joins the international community in honoring its international obligations on human rights and urges the government of Bahrain to #SetThemFree. We stand in solidarity with all human rights defenders in Bahrain and call for the immediate and unconditional release of Rajab along with other human rights detainees.