Human rights groups deem trial unfair as Nabeel Rajab's appeal is rejected


Journalists, media workers and human rights defenders continue to face persecution in Bahrain. On 20th May 2018, renowned National Geographic magazine photographer Sayed Baqer Al-Kamel appeared in court to appeal a two-month sentence. Al-Kamel had been arrested on 27th April 2018 from Country Mall on Budaiya Highway, in the northern governorate by plainclothes police. Al-Kamel is accused of protesting and rioting in April 2016. His sentencing has been postponed to 3rd October 2018.

On 20th May 2018, Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and FIDH Deputy Secretary General, appeared in court to appeal a five-year sentence for tweeting about the war in Yemen and torture in Bahrain’s notorious Jaw Prison. On 5th June 2018, Bahrain’s Court of Appeal upheld the five year prison sentence. The verdict was condemned by the European Union (EU), which released a statement calling for Rajab’s release and reiterated its support for Rajab and all human rights defenders in Bahrain. The statement declared that: 

"The European Union continues to call on the Bahraini government to grant Mr Rajab's release, including on humanitarian grounds given the reported deterioration of his health. Once again, the European Union expects all parties in Bahrain to engage in a genuine dialogue with a view to relaunching a process of national reconciliation in a peaceful and constructive manner".

A report from an observation mission of Nabeel Rajab's trial in February 2018 was published on 8th May 2018. The mission was mandated by a coalition of civil society organisations, including Gulf Centre for Human Rights, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders - a partnership of FIDH - and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)Front Line DefendersEnglish PEN, and Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR). The report found that the trial proceedings were unfair, noting that neither Nabeel Rajab nor his lawyer were allowed to speak during a two-minute sentencing.

In a separate incident related to social media use, another blogger was charged with inciting hatred against the government of Bahrain and insulting the royal family. Sayed Al-Dourazi is an online blogger who was arrested on 20th February 2018 for expressing dissent online. On 9th May 2018, he was sentenced by the fifth lower criminal court to two years in prison for disseminating fake news. During his detention, there is credible evidence to suggest Al-Dourazi was subjected to ill-treatment and abuse. 


Ahead of elections due to take place later this year, Bahrain’s National Assembly has advanced new legislation that will virtually ban members of the political opposition from seeking office, according to Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain. On 13th May 2018, the Shura Council approved an amendment to the Law on the Exercise of Political Rights that permanently prohibits the following groups from participating in elections: felons and persons previously convicted and sentenced to six months or more; leaders and members of former political organisations that were dissolved for violating the law; as well as “whoever destroys or disrupts the conduct of constitutional or parliamentary life by terminating or leaving the parliamentary work in the Council [of Representatives] or had their membership revoked for the same reason”. This amendment will prevent the political opposition from participating in elections, thus further strengthening the authorities' stranglehold on political space.