English PEN is one of 17 co-signatories to a letter to the UK Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, expressing ‘deep disappointment’ with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s response to the sentencing of Bahrain human rights defender Nabeel Rajab.
On 10 July Rajab received a 2 year sentence for publishing ‘false news’. The charges related to press interviews he gave in 2015 and 2016.
Despite a comitment to support human rights defenders in it Human Rights and Democracy Report 2016, the FCO has failed to condemn the sentence, which is a clear breach of Nabeel Rajab’s human right to freedom of expression. In the letter, the NGOs note that the FCO’s ‘lacklustre response’ is in stark contrast to statements made by British ministers in 2012, and shows ‘a clear shift away from supporting human rights defenders in Bahrain.’
The letter was co-signed by Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, ARTICLE 19, Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, English PEN, European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, International Federation for Human Rights, Front Line Defenders, Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Index on Censorship, the Jimmy Wales Foundation, PEN International, Reporters Without Borders and World Organisation Against Torture.
The letter was also signed by Tom Brake MP, Julie Ward MEP, and Sue Willman, director, Deighton Pierce Glynn.