Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) has been actively advocating for the protection and respect of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in Bahrain; in particular for key actors of civil society, nationally and abroad, such as Nabeel Rajab.
In the past year, Mr Rajab has been the victim of repression, judicial harassment and his freedoms and fundamental rights have been widely abused, as a direct consequence of his role as an HRD.
ADHRB's campaign mixed national and international advocacy, with civil society and international stakeholders, to raise awareness about Nabeel's case and then create the necessary international pressure and advocacy campaigns to ensure his freedom and safety. Mr Rajab was at the centre of this campaign, as his case represented those of others, but ADHRB also invests itself in ensuring that hundreds of other civil society actors in Bahrain are able to freely and safely express their opinions and beliefs without repression.
The primary objective of the campaign was to ensure the freedom and safety, and to stop the judicial harassment against HRD Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain.
The overall objective, of highlighting the case of Mr Rajab, was to shed light on the repression in civil society and repression HRD activists face in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the overall Gulf region, and to mobilize the international community and its key actors to achieve full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all in the GCC countries.
Other key activists that ADHRB has been advocating for include Maryam Al Khawaja, her sister Zaynab and her father Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Dr. Al-Singace, Mohammad Alajmi, Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi and his lawyer Waleed Abdulkhair.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
ADHRB engaged in extensive international advocacy to achieve its aforementioned objective, via meetings, briefings, letters, events and media campaigns. It successfully advocated for, and obtained, official letters publicly voicing concern for the case of Mr Rajab and calling on the Bahraini government for his immediate release and to drop all charges against him. Such letters and public statements came from US Congress, the White House, the European Parliament and the OHCHR, as well as UN Special Rapporteurs.
ADHRB further intervened orally during the UN HRC 30th session and conducted a side-event on the issue. In Europe, they briefed the office of the EEAS Representative for Human Rights Mr Lambrinidis before his May 2015 visit to Bahrain, as well as conducting regular meetings with the FCO, European Institutions and the US State Department, as well as gathering support of the international NGO and civil society community. Overall, a strong coordinated international advocacy line.
To achieve the objectives and maximize the impact of this campaign, ADHRB chose to go through the OECD complaints system and use the available international complaint mechanisms, both legal and non-legal, at the UN HRC, such as the special procedures and also making full use of its UN ECOSOC consultative status and participating in Universal Periodic Reviews.
Further, ADHRB conducted a European Advocacy tour to reinforce its international advocacy, and visited 9 countries, in the EU and its neighbourhood, in 2015 to raise awareness and gather support about Mr Rajab's case and the overall Human Rights situation in Bahrain.
This year, ADHRB has further increased the international aspect of its campaign, multiplying its impact.
The campaign proved very successful and Nabeel Rajab was released from prison due to the international pressure, fostered by ADHRB with its international outreach campaign.
Further, numerous have been the mentions in international media, as well as in the NGO community and at governmental level, of the critical human rights situation in Bahrain, especially regarding the case of Mr Nabeel Rajab, proving the efficiency of the campaign and outreach conducted by ADHRB in the US, EU and UN.
ADHRB has achieved high-level statements, letters and even pieces of legislation highlighting and contributing to the objectives of its campaign. Human Rights issues in Bahrain are increasingly being talked about in the international civil society and governmental fora, especially the case of HRDs and Nabeel Rajab, the key focus of ADHRB's campaign.
Working on human rights is always challenging, however when engaging in advocacy campaigns for issues in the Gulf countries, the challenge increases.
The GCC countries are extremely powerful and rich nations, playing an important role in international trade, economics, security and politics, making some of the players when engage with internationally rather reticent when it comes to voicing criticism or supporting action.
Further, the human rights situation in the GCC countries is very poor, and currently deteriorating, as we have seen by the numerous executions in Saudi Arabia and the indiscriminate revocations of nationality in Bahrain. They have a huge mountain to climb ahead of them in terms of fundamental freedoms and human rights, and in itself that represents a big challenge for civil society actors, especially when engaging in bilateral action and cooperation.
The religious, economic, sectarian and civic challenges in the area make it a hostile environment for any NGO.
The best lesson learnt is to never give up, notably when the issue at hand is such of protecting HRD and civil society space. Despite the challenges and hurdles present in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the overall Gulf region, ADHRB's commitment to human rights and to this campaign has been total and unconditional.
ADHRB has gone further than the majority of civil society actors in its country for the protection of human rights in the Gulf. A strong strategic campaign does pay off and ADHRB still hopes to see full observance and compliance with human rights in Bahrain and the GCC countries.
To achieve that, ADHRB is still very much engaged in international and national advocacy in favour of HRDs in Bahrain and Saudi, as well as to ensure the application of international human rights law and fundamental freedoms for all GCC inhabitants.