A group of U.N. human rights experts have called on the Bahraini authorities to comply with the rights to peaceful assembly and expression and immediately release those arbitrarily detained for exercising their legitimate freedoms."
They also called for the immediate release of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, who was recently sentenced to three years' imprisonment. The call comes amid serious concerns about the ongoing persecution of human rights defenders in the oil-rich Gulf Kingdom.
Rajab was convicted on three charges of illegal assembly related to his participation in peaceful gatherings in favor of fundamental freedoms and democracy, including a peaceful protest to denounce the detention of fellow human rights defender Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.
"The sentencing of Rajab represents yet another blatant attempt by the Government of Bahrain to silence those legitimately working to promote basic human rights," said the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya. She called on the Bahraini government to immediately cease its campaign of persecution of human rights defenders in the country.
The Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, stressed that "the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly should not be subject to prior authorization from the authorities." For the rights expert, "the criminalization of people participating in peaceful assemblies for the sole reason that they did not seek the approval of the authorities to hold such assemblies contradicts international human rights law."
Rajab is also currently serving three months imprisonment for alleged libel through a social networking site.
"The continuing repression of free speech in Bahrain runs counter to international law and standards that individuals will not be prosecuted for peaceful political speech", said the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue.
by RTT Staff Writer
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