Index on Censorship has called upon the Bahraini government to release 2012 Index Freedom of Expression Award winner Nabeel Rajab and other prisoners of conscience, and honour its promises to uphold freedom of expression.
Index’s Chief Executive Kirsty Hughes said:
“The continued imprisonment of Nabeel Rajab and other activists shows that Bahrain is not serious about reform. The targeting of human rights activists and imprisonment of prisoners of conscience shows that government commitments to reform are for now meaningless.
“Index calls on the Bahrain government to respect the right to peaceful protest and the right to free speech, to end its violations of these rights and to implement fully the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission for Inquiry (BICI).”
According to the Project on Middle East Democracy, the government of Bahrain has only succeeded in fully implementing three of the 26 recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission for Inquiry (BICI) report in November 2011.
Members of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) have faced repression from Bahrain’s regime for their tireless work documenting human rights violations committed by the government, since popular protests began on 14 February 2011. According to BCHR, there have been 89 deaths since the start of the country’s uprising.
In March 2012, accepting the Index on Censorship Advocacy award on behalf of BCHR, human rights activist Nabeel Rajab said that the international community heard little about uprisings in Bahrain because “we have oil”. He is currently serving a two-year sentence for organising so-called “illegal gatherings”. The founder of BCHR, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, is on hunger-strike to protest his ill-treatment in prison. Alkhawaja is currently serving a life sentence for allegedly plotting to overthrow the ruling regime. His daughter Zainab is also on hunger strike and serving a three-month jail sentence.
In April, international attention will once again turn to Bahrain when it hosts the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Last year, the Bahraini government attempted to use the race to gain positive international attention while continuing to clamp down on protesters who are critical of the regime.