London, 17 October 2014
Rights groups call on UK to press Bahrain to release human rights defenders
Nine human rights organisations called on the British government on Friday to speak out publicly in the case of activists currently being detained in BahrainProminent human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab, Zainab Al-Khawaja and Ghada Jamsheer have all been arrested and face lengthy prison sentences in Bahrain for cases of peaceful expression.
Prominent human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja was arrested at the Lower Criminal Court in Bahrain after ripping a picture of the country’s monarch. Mrs. Al-Khawaja was facing charges of “destroying government property” at the hearing on 14 October 2014 related to the ripping of the monarchs photo in a 2012 demonstration. During the hearing, she declared:
“I am the daughter of a proud and free man. My mother brought me into this world free, and I will give birth to a free baby boy even if it is inside your prisons. It is my right, and my responsibility as a free person, to protest against oppression and oppressors.”
She then proceeded by ripping a picture of the monarch and was detained at the spot. It is important to note that she is
Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was arrested for a tweet in which he expressed his view about the role Bahrain security institutions play as “incubators of ISIS ideology”. Mr. Rajab had travelled to Bahrain from the United Kingdom following a European advocacy tour that included a panel at the UK House of Lords. In an open letter to UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, rights groups Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, English PEN, Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Index on Censorship and Reprieve urged the United Kingdom to add its voice to these universal calls.
“As a close ally to Bahrain, the UK has influence that could result in steps to release human rights defenders and political prisoners in Bahrain,” the groups said in the letter. “As a close ally to Bahrain, the UK has influence that could result in steps to release human rights defenders and political prisoners in Bahrain”.
Last month, the UK signed a joint statement at the UN Human Rights Council, which urged the government of Bahrain “to release all persons imprisoned solely for exercising human rights, including human rights defenders some of whom have been identified as arbitrarily detained.”
Read the full letter here.