07 May 2012

Freedom House calls for the release of Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab who was arrested May 5 upon his return to Manama, Bahrain from Beirut, Lebanon. Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, was detained on previous charges of ‘inciting illegal rallies and marches online’ using social networking websites and posting ‘defamatory’ depictions of security forces. His arrest occurred the same day that an international freedom of expression delegation of press freedom advocates, including Freedom House, was scheduled to arrive in Bahrain, before it was denied entry by the government.

Rajab has been arrested numerous times, including on February 14, the one-year anniversary of the Pearl Roundabout demonstrations, when he was detained with two other human rights activists. The arrest of activists and decision to prohibit international monitors from entering the country are examples of the government’s lack of interest in addressing the serious human rights abuses occurring in the country.

Bahrain is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2012, Freedom of the Press 2012 and Freedom on the Net 2011. Bahraini citizens have been broadly engaged in protests since February 2011, to call for a more representative government and to denounce ethnic-based inequities in a country run by the Sunni Al-Khalifa royal family, where the majority of citizens are Shiite. Bahraini has failed to implement comprehensive political reforms, and rights groups have reported ongoing arrests, intimidation, and in some cases torture of those speaking out against despotic rule. The country’s decision to host the high profile Formula One Grand Prix race in April 2012 was a rallying point for activists and international human rights organizations. Authorities continue to hold Abdulhadi Alkhawaja in prison for his activism – Alkhawaja is on his 87th day of a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment.

freedomhouse.org