Index on Censorship condemns last night’s arrest of Index’s 2012 Award winner and head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Nabeel Rajab and the ongoing harassment of human rights activists in Bahrain including the arrest of those involved in peaceful protests.
Kirsty Hughes, Chief Executive of Index said:
The arrest of Nabeel Rajab, and the continued targeting of other well-known activists, is deeply worrying and appears to link directly to Bahrain’s continuing failure to respect fundamental, and basic, rights including freedom of speech, and freedom to protest. Reforms have been promised by Bahrain but not delivered.
Bahrain must stop harassing human rights activists and recognise that freedom of expression and other fundamental rights are vital components of a free and open society. The Bahrain government should allow proper scrutiny of its actions: real transparency must include allowing both domestic and international rights organisations and journalists to report on and monitor ongoing unrest in the country.
Rajab was arrested as he flew into Manama’s airport last night. According to Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior, he was “detained under suspicion of committing several punishable crimes” but it is yet to specify the charges. Rajab was returning to Bahrain to face a court hearing on existing charges.
Rajab, who is also director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), has been a vocal critic of the human rights violations committed during Bahrain’s ongoing civil unrest, which first began with protests on 14 February last year.
While accepting an Index award on behalf of BCHR this year, Rajab called for assistance from the international community, explaining that members of BCHR – which was banned by authorities in 2004 – have been detained, tortured or exiled while attempting to exercise fundamental rights and freedoms including free expression and freedom of assembly (freedom to protest).
The founder of BCHR, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, is in detention awaiting a retrial after been jailed for life by a military tribunal for taking part in peaceful protests. He has been on hunger strike for 88 days. And Rajab’s arrest comes only weeks after the arrest of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja’ daughter, Zainab Alkhawaja, who was detained after protesting for the release of her father during the Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Earlier this week an international delegation of free expression organizations – including Index – were denied entry to the country.