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Nabeel Rajab

Nabeel Rajab

President
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Ion Ratiu Democracy Award
2011

Nabeel Rajab, a leading human rights activist and president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, will receive the 2011 Ion Ratiu Democracy Award, presented annually by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Thousands of others are behind bars. They are behind bars just because of their struggle, or because they speak, because they criticize the government in one way or another. Those people have to be awarded and they have to be welcomed, not put behind bars.

Nabeel Rajab is a human rights defender and President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. He is one of the most prominent Arab human rights defenders and has been a leading voice in the Arab Spring in Bahrain. He has faced physical intimidation, arrest, detention and travel bans as a result of his work and has been sentenced to prison in violation of rights of assembly and expression.

Bahrain Protest Context

Following the eruption of protests in February 2011 against government corruption and discrimination of the Shi'a majority population, the situation for human rights defenders in Bahrain became even more dangerous and difficult. Faced with widespread protests and unrest, the authorities responded with harsh measures and a crackdown on protesters, civil society leaders, human rights defenders and pro democracy activists. Human rights defenders were tried in military courts, often charged with fabricated crimes, and given hugely disproportionate sentences. Furthermore many have been ill-treated and tortured in detention, have been held incommunicado and denied access to family and lawyers, while confessions made under duress have been admitted as evidence in court in contravention of international law.