In response to the sentencing of human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, Dr Bärbel Kofler, issued the following statement today (21 February):
In the light of numerous reports expressing doubts as to whether rule-of-law standards were upheld during proceedings, I am greatly concerned by the sentencing of the Bahraini human rights activist and opposition politician Nabeel Rajab to five years in prison for statements made on Twitter.
Every government must face up to the criticism of its citizens and respond to it with objective arguments. Freedom of opinion and freedom of the press enjoy constitutional protection also in Bahrain. People must be able to draw public attention to injustices and undesirable developments also in social media. With this in mind, I call on the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain to honour its commitments to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
I am also concerned about yesterday’s decision by the Bahraini Parliament to ban former members of dissolved political associations from exercising passive voting rights. There is a risk here that society will become further polarised. I therefore call on the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain to refrain from passing this law.
Human rights activist and opposition politician Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in the first instance on 21 February 2018. The verdict was pronounced for “spreading false information about the war in Yemen” and “insulting the Ministry of Interior”. He has the right to appeal against the judgement. In July 2017, Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in another trial for interviews with foreign media.
The Federal Government has repeatedly expressed its concern about the increasing use of penal law to suppress public criticism in Bahrain.