(September 8, 2016)- On Tuesday, September 6, The US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States was “very concerned” about Bahrain’s human rights advocate, Nabeel Rajab “ongoing detention and the new charges filed against him.” Just a day before that, Rajab stood before a High Criminal Court in Manama which was supposed to deliver a verdict in government case against him, but then delayed it until October 6.
Charges which the Court is looking include his criticism of Bahrain’s involvement in the Saudi-led coalition military campaign in Yemen, as well as exposing torture in a notorious place of detention in Bahrain. Only last Monday, the government presented him with new charges of “undermining the prestige” of the ruling regime over a letter it alleges he wrote in prison.
Arrested on June 13, 2016, Rajab is at risk of receiving 15 years in prison, if charges against him were upheld by the Court.
There are however two critical facts which the US administration, and particularly its State Department, must recognize with regards to establishing the threshold of its responsibilities in the case of Bahrain human rights icon, Nabeel Rajab.
First, Rajab participated, on March 24, 2016, in a joint letter along with more than a dozen Middle East and North Africa human rights advocates, which called on President Obama to raise human rights with Gulf leaders, ahead of his visit to Saudi Arabia to meet with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in April this year. During court session on Monday, September 5, Rajab said authorities summoned him, after the letter was published, and asked that he remove his name from the letter, which he refused.
Second, Rajab was invited to a meeting, on April 7 in Manama, with State Secretary, John Kerry, which also hosted members of the Bahrain opposition and other civil society representatives. Yet again, he was summoned several times where he was ‘interrogated’ on issues related to the meeting itself. This was confirmed by Rajab during the court session on September 5.
Albeit that charges which Nabeel Rajab has been arrested upon in June, stemmed partially from case charges he was arrested for in April 2015, and that authorities appear to have never dropped the case; the frequency of interrogations he was subjected to after he participated in the joint letter to Obama and taking part in the State Secretary meeting in Manama, strongly suggest that these two events articulate great linkages to his arrest, most evidently in retaliation to his strong stance on freedom of expression and injustice in the country.
US State Department Spokesman call on government of Bahrain to immediately release Nabeel Rajab on Tuesday, is very welcomed. But it does not substantiate the links between Nabeel Rajab arrest and the United States evident responsibilities in seeking justification from its Bahrain ally on why engaging with US foreign policy representatives, or seeking US support to human rights issues, brings persecution, prosecution and arrest, of peaceful rights advocates in this ally country.
The US recent expression of ‘concerns’ about the state of human rights in Bahrain doesn’t qualify to meet the threshold of US potential response to an ally government retaliation against peaceful rights advocates because of their public engagement, discussions and exchanges with US officials. Or otherwise, those officials should refrain from seeking to engage with activists and advocates in an ally country, which its government shall respond with hostility, persecution and, or, prosecution and jail. Bahrain government proven to be one.
US must play a decisive role in seeking release of Nabeel Rajab and drop the charges against him, before his verdict court session in October.
- Ahmed Mansoor, United Arab Emirates
- Ali Dailami, Yemen
- Anwar Rasheed, Kuwait
- Essam Koshak, Saudi Arabia
- Fadi Al-Qadi, Jordan
- Hussain Jawad, Bahrain
- Jawad Fairooz, Bahrain
- Khaled Ibrahim, Iraq
- Kuwait Watch (Organization)
- Lindal Al-Kalash, Jordan
- Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (Organization)
- Saudi Organization for Rights and Freedoms (Organization)
- Sayed Yousef Al-Muhafda, Bahrain
- Yehya Al-Asiri, Saudi Arabia
- Mohamed Lotfy, Egypt
- Amal Basha, Yemen
- Emad Algarash, Yemen
- Gerard Halli, France
- Catherine Shakdam, UK
- Muslims for Progressive Values, US (Organization)
- Severin Desbordes, France
- Ex-Muslims of North America, US (Organization)
- Movements.Org, US (Organization)
- Felina Neuman, Germany
- Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom (Organization)
- Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, USA
- Tara Reynor O’Grady, Ireland
- Hala Aldosari, Saudi Arabia
- Elham Manea, Geneva-based
- Sven Bauer, Austria
- Ahmed Kikich, Morocco
- Abdulrasheed Alfaqih, Yemen
- Radhya Almutawakel, Yemen