Posts Tagged ‘Arab region’

UN pulls Anti-Torture Conference from Egypt to seek other regional venue

August 21, 2019

The UN has postponed the anti-torture conference due to take place in Cairo, following an outcry from human rights defenders who accused the organisation of “whitewashing” the Egyptian government’s abuses. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/20/controversial-u-n-decision-to-hold-conference-on-torture-in-egypt/

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/postpones-anti-torture-conference-cairo-outcry-190820193249344.html

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/20/un-postpones-anti-torture-conference-in-cairo-after-backlash

Controversial U.N.decision to hold conference on torture in Egypt

August 20, 2019

The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will co-host the regional conference with the government’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) on 4-5 September. Some 80 participants, both government and non-governmental, from 19 Arab countries are expected to attend. U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville, who in February had said torture was endemic in Egypt, told Reuters: “It is a fairly standard type of event.”…

Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, said the idea of Egypt hosting such an event was a joke. “More ironic is that this is through the National Council (for Human Rights), the role of which is to always polish the government’s image and complicity in the human rights situation,” he said. NHCR president Mohamed Fayek will give a welcome address at the conference’s opening ceremony, according to an agenda seen by Reuters….In 2017, Egypt raided and shut down the Nadeem Center, which documented alleged human rights abuses and treated torture victims.

In the meantime on 19 August 2019 the NGO EuroMed Rights announced that it has declined the invitation and in an open letter addressed to UN High Commissioner, Ms Michelle Bachelet, EuroMed Rights expresses its deep reservations about the decision to hold this conference in Egypt, a country where torture is systematically practised by the security forces, and in collaboration with the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights, which acts under the auspices of the government. The letter recalls that detainees and prisoners in Egypt are frequently subjected to abuses which amount to torture, including electric shocks, beatings, suspension by limbs and rape. Read full letter here

https://kfgo.com/news/articles/2019/aug/15/rights-groups-criticize-undecision-to-hold-conference-on-torture-in-egypt/927888/

“I am Bahraini” website launched in effort to stop denationalizations

February 25, 2018

Salam launches “I am Bahraini” website allocated for citizenship revocation cases in Bahrain

SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights launched on 23 February 2018 the “I am Bahraini” network in both Arabic and English versions. The website is meant to support and defend Bahrainis whose citizenships were arbitrarily revoked due to political and identity backgrounds. A most timely initiative in view of the horrendous numbers of Bahrainis who have been struck with this measure. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/06/23/bahrain-reprisals-human-rights-defenders-travel-ban-denationalization-geneva/

7 November 2012,it started with he Bahraini Minister of Interior revoking the nationality of 31 citizens, among them clerics, former MPs, academics, journalists, human rights defenders, and members of civil society. The numbers quickly escalated afterwards. Until now, human rights defenders have counted 578 Bahraini citizens whom citizenships were effectively revoked and are rendered stateless.”Citizenship is the most basic and fundamental right of every individual. One losing his/her nationality consists a social demise. One possession of citizenship should not be seen as privilege or reward for allegiance, and its revocation should not be wielded as a weapon of control and oppression. The citizenry is above government and absolutely not vice versa. Citizenship revocation only enhances the discretionary and arbitrary power of the executive authority,” said Jawad Fairooz, President of SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, also a former Bahraini MP whose nationality has been revoked.

The website gathers all relevant content, including lists of many of the affected persons, as well as the position of both the Bahraini government and the international community. The website also aims at creating a dedicated space for the cases of revoked citizenship in Bahrain and at publishing significant data, reports and news from various human rights organizations, media and research centers that could serve as references in both Arabic and English languages.

Organizers are seeking through this network to cooperate with all interested individuals or groups. People can contact them on: info@salam-dhr.org

http://en.abna24.com/news/bahrain/salam-launches-“i-am-bahraini”-website-allocated-for-citizenship-revocation-cases-in-bahrain_883339.html

Complaint against Qatar National Human Rights Commission rejected

August 21, 2017

Perhaps a bit of a side-show in the ongoing conflict between Qatar and it Arab neighbors, but interesting to note that the International Accreditation Committee of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions has rejected the complaint submitted by the ‘siege countries’ against the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC). The International Accreditation Committee has underlined that, since the beginning of the Gulf crisis, the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) had played its part in the protection and promotion of human rights in accordance with the Paris Principles that govern the work of national human rights institutions. [the countries had filed a joint complaint on 7 August 2017 against the National Human Rights Committee at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as the secretariat of the International Accreditation Committee, and also as a permanent observer to the Accreditation Committee of the Alliance. In their complaint to the Accreditation Committee, the siege countries requested that appropriate action be taken to freeze the membership of the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) in the list of national human rights institutions, and called for a reclassification of the Committee’s A rank and downgrade and review of all activities of the NHRC before and during the crisis to consider it conformity with its mandate in accordance with the Paris Principles.]

In a press statement, the Chairman of the Qatari National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) Dr. Ali bin Smaikh Al Marri said this decision is a remedy for the human rights victims of the siege and support for their cause, and a victory not only for the NHRC but also for all national human rights institutions and human rights defenders in the world, as well as a testimony of pride for the NHRC , and an affirmation of its independence and the credibility of its work. ….Dr Al Marri also called on civil society organizations in the siege countries to cooperate with the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) in addressing the violations and the disastrous humanitarian situation facing the citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC) as a result of the siege, especially on mixed families, affected students, owners and investors, as well as the neutralization of human rights of any political differences. Dr Al Marri stressed that the NHRC is continuing its work against the violations resulting from the siege and will intensify its efforts at regional and international forums to redress the victims within the framework of its jurisdiction and in accordance with the Paris Principles.

Source:

Siege nations’ complaint against NHRC rejected – The Peninsula Qatar

https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/06/12/nchr-calls-respect-qatari-residents-rights-amid-diplomatic-tensions/

Arab region, behind the violations a glimmer of hope? Qatar regional meeting and a Arab League manual

January 11, 2016

 The Arab region is these days mostly known or its turmoil and attacks on human rights defenders. Still there are some more quiet developments that could over time improve the situation. Here are two of them” (1) a conference in Qatar and (2) a new manual The League of Arab States: Human Rights Standards and MechanismsRead the rest of this entry »

Alkarama human rights award 2015 for Omani MP Talib Al Ma’amari

December 3, 2015

On 8 December 2015 at 18:00, Alkarama will present its 2015 Alkarama Award for Human Rights Defenders in the Arab World to Talib Al Ma’amari a Member of the Omani Parliament who stands up for human rights.  The event will be held at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva (Switzerland). “Talib Al Mamari is a prisoner of conscience and a courageous human rights defender. By his unwavering non-violent fight against harmful environmental policies in Oman, he has become a model in the region as a dedicated militant who is genuinely close to the citizens’ concerns. Alkarama is proud to honour him,” says Mourad Dhina, Executive Director at Alkarama. The ceremony will be live-streamed on: http://www.youtube.com/AlkaramaHR/live.

Read the rest of this entry »

Algerian government fails to prove accusation against human rights defenders held in Italy

September 17, 2015

On 15 September 2015, the Turin Court of Appeal ruled to release Algerian human rights defender Mr Rachid Mesli, who has been under house arrest since 22 August 2015, and to allow him to leave the country, as reported by Front Line Defenders.

 

The human rights defender was released before the end of the 40 day period during which the Algerian government could submit a formal request for extradition. The Court recognised Rachid Mesli’s important and peaceful work in the defence of human rights, as well as the high risk of torture he would face if returned to Algeria. While the court is yet to make its final decision on the extradition warrant, the release order highlighted that, according to the information received, Rachid Mesli’s human rights activities were not in any way related to terrorism.

On 22 August, the Italian court placed the human rights defender under house arrest following three days in detention in Aosta prison. Rachid Mesli was arrested on 19 August 2015 (https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/29390) as he travelled to Italy on holiday with his wife and son. The arrest occurred as a result of an arrest warrant issued by the Algerian authorities in April 2002 on terrorism-related charges.

[Rachid Mesli is the Legal Director of Alkarama, an independent human rights organisation based in Geneva that works to assist victims of extra-judicial executions, disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention in Arab states. And this is not first effort by the Algerian government see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/mourad-dhina-algerian-head-of-the-human-rights-organization-alkarama-detained-in-france/]

Interesting tot note Front Line Defenders’ call on Interpol to ensure the legitimacy of all warrants issued by its members and to put in place safeguards so that the system cannot be abused in order to target human rights defenders.

Elsa Saade talks about her work for “Gulf Centre for Human Rights”

July 28, 2015

On 26 June 2015 the ISHR (International service for Human Rights) featured a portrait of Elsa Saade, a woman human rights defender who works for the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), an independent, non-profit and non-governmental organisation that works to provide support and protection to human rights defenders in the Gulf region by promoting freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

Elsa, who has worked closely on the issue of women human rights defenders in the Gulf and neighboring countries, explained how women human rights defenders are at particular risk. E.g. she  received a message from a women defender stating that she could no longer talk, that she was going underground. ‘They are threatening to kill me’, she said. ‘They will arrest me. I need to disappear.’ Elsa confirmed that she could not mention the defender’s name or where she is from as it would endanger her life, however highlighted how women not only face pressures from the government or non-state actors when she stands up for human rights, but even faces societal and cultural clashes which could be reflected inside her home.

Elsa explained how States in the Gulf region are mostly patriarchal. The simplest example of patriarchy is the fact that women in Saudi Arabia cannot drive. Two women defenders in Saudi Arabia, Maysaa Al Amoudy and Lujain Al-Hathlol, who were caught driving as a statement to allow women to drive, were arrested and tried in the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, which deals with cases of terrorism and State security. They currently await sentencing.

Elsa referred to the situation in Iran, KSA, and Syria, which she considers is especially bad. ‘If we hadn’t publicised certain cases, some of our human rights defenders would already be dead. If no-one knew their names, the government wouldn’t consider them, as if they didn’t exist. Those who exercise their right to freedom of expression face death threats, flogging and indefinite prison sentences.’..‘Some defenders fall silent but others gain confidence when bad things happen – it confirms the need to struggle for their rights. Although the conditions are depressing, it is inspiring to see how tragedies motivate women to raise their voice. Out of their misery they create something beautiful.’

At this point, Elsa further referred to cases of women Syrian refugees in Lebanon and how important their role in the house, family and society was. On that account she mentioned several challenges that humanitarian people who help Syrian refugees face. Having worked in the field she highlights that they are often at risk.

As a result of my work I have personally experienced challenges. I was put in a situation were I could have been beaten several times, just because I was helping the Syrian refugees.’ As a woman, and especially after having widened the scope of interest in the region’s several HRD cases, Elsa has begun to feel increasingly vulnerable. The greater the exposure, the greater the risk. In Lebanon the situation is not so bad for women. But on a recent trip to Egypt I felt incredibly paranoid. I was on the constant look out. That is why so many women defenders prefer to stay on the low.’

Elsa is adamant, however, on the necessity of continuing her work to support human rights defenders.

Without human rights defenders, the reality would remain hidden. There is a clash between three concepts: reality, delusion and myth. You have the myth, the image that the State wants to portray; the delusion, as people keep quiet to put bread on the table; and the reality on the ground. Human rights defenders, be they journalists, bloggers, lawyers, teachers or women defenders, portray this reality. They are the ones who ask for accountability, for independent judges, for basic human rights.’

[The Gulf Centre supports and protects human rights defenders in different ways to eventually create a community of strong and safe human rights defenders protected by international mechanisms. Firstly, it can mobilise a network of prominent human rights defenders to generate support amongst each other. Secondly, it runs UN advocacy projects and provides funding and technical assistance for HRDs to attend UN meetings. Thirdly, it allocates private funding for relocation, personal finance, appeals, and assisting with the provision of safe havens in case they are in danger. Fourthly, it runs training workshops on various issues HRDs are in need of and specifically on how to engage with UN mechanisms and protection mechanisms.]

For previous posts on the Gulf center: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/gulf-centre-for-human-rights/

 

Elsa Saade: Human rights defender from the Gulf Centre for Human Rights | ISHR.

New and updated information on Reprisals in the Arab World

May 20, 2015

On 14 May 2015, the Geneva-based NGO Alkarama provided the United Nations Secretary General with a report on the state of reprisals in the Arab world especially in Oman, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This topic – as argued in this blog many times [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/] – is one of the most urgent facing the human rights movement. If  human rights defenders suffer from harassment and intimidation for their cooperation with the UN, it would completely undermine the work of UN experts, Special Rapporteurs, Treaty bodies and the UPR. The UN Human Rights Council has adopted several resolutions (e.g. Resolution 24/24) calling upon States to enact laws and policies to protect HRDs at the national level, to prohibit all forms of intimidation or reprisal against HRDs, and to appoint a UN focal point to whom people who have suffered from retaliation for their cooperation with the UN could turn to.

In its new report Alkarama raises cases of reprisals in:

Oman, where the retaliation against human rights defenders has become systematic. Said Jadad, a prominent activist and advocate for democracy in his country was arrested in December 2014, three months after meeting with the Special Rapporteur on the rights and freedom of peaceful assembly and association during his visit to the country in September 2014. After 12 days in secret detention, during which he was questioned about his “ties with international NGOs working for the protection of human rights”, Jadad was set free only to be arrested again on 21 January 2015. On 8 March 2015, he was sentenced to three years of imprisonment for “harming the State’s prestige”. In August 2014, Omani journalist and human rights activist Mohammad al Fazari was summoned by the Royal Police, for “reasons that concern him personally”. He was subsequently detained in secret for five days, before the authorities confiscated his identity documents and imposed a travel ban in December.

Syria, where two human rights defenders, Jadia Abdallah Nawfal, Director of the Syrian Centre for Democracy and Civil Rights, and Omar Al Shaar, Editor-in-chief of the Day Press News’ English section, were arrested on 31 October upon their return from Beirut where they attended human rights conferences and workshops. After numerous UN Special Procedures holders intervened with the Syrian authorities on their behalf in November, they were both set free on 18 December 2014. [Also in Syria, Alkarama informed Ban Ki-moon of the 23rd postponement of the hearing of Mazen Darwish, President of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression and his colleagues, Hussayn Gharir and Hani Zitani before the Anti-Terrorism Court, despite the call from both the UNSG and  UN Special Procedures for their release. What is more, on 9 June 2014, a presidential amnesty was issued pardoning all individuals charged with “promoting terrorist acts,” but Mazen Darwish and his colleagues were excluded from the pardon, as highlighted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in February. Finally, Alkarama reported the continuous secret detention of Khalil Matouk, a human rights lawyer – who defended, amongst others, Mazen Darwish and his colleagues – and Director of the Syrian Centre for Legal Studies and Research, whose case was raised by the UNSG in 2014. Arrested in October 2012, he has been, since March 2013, detained incommunicado at an Air Force Intelligence Branch, despite a UN call for his release.]

Egypt, where the case of Alkarama’s Country Representative Ahmed Mefreh, which was raised by the UNSG in his 2014 report, saw new developments. In September 2013, an arrest warrant was issued accusing him of “being a member of an armed organisation,” as a reprisal for his work as a human rights defender documenting then the killing of 985 peaceful demonstrators in Rabaa Adawiya and Nahda squares in Cairo. Today, Mefreh is being prosecuted in absentia with 49 other people on trumped-up charges including: “joining an illegal group aiming at impeding the enforcement of the Constitution and the law; disrupting institutions; hampering personal rights guaranteed by the Constitution; damaging national unity and social peace while pursuing terrorist goals to overthrow the authorities; assaulting police forces and public facilities; and disrupting the public order.”

Saudi Arabia, where the authorities continue to crackdown on human rights activists. Alkarama updated Ban Ki-moon on the cases of Fawzan Al Harbi, Abdullah Al Hamid and Mohammad Fahad Al Qahtani, all founding members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Associations (ACPRA). ACPRA, an NGO founded in 2009 to document cases of human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, suffered from reprisals by the authorities for having provided the UN with information, often via Alkarama. On 19 November 2014, after having been accused of “spreading false information about the Saudi government,” Fawzan Al Harbi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and subjected to a 10-year travel ban. Abdullah Al Hamid and Mohammad Al Qahtani, who were sentenced in March 2013 respectively to 10 and 11 years of imprisonment by the Criminal Court of Riyadh for having provided “false information as evidence to official international apparatuses such as the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council,” continue to be detained despite a call from several UN Special Procedures for their release.  Fadhel Al Manasif, a Saudi human rights defender was sentenced by the Specialized Criminal Court to 15 years plus a travel ban of the same length after his prior sentence, and a fine of US$ 26,666 for charges that included “breaking allegiance with the king” and “being in contact with foreign news agencies in order to exaggerate news and harm the reputation of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its people”.

It is important to recall that, because not all victims are able to advocate their own case, or because they fear further reprisals, we should never forget that these cases are only the tip of the iceberg, as Ban Ki-moon highlighted in his last reprisals report,” says Inès Osman, Legal Coordinator at Alkarama. “The international community needs to stand by these women and men and fight against impunity for these unacceptable acts of reprisals. These individuals do not only ‘cooperate with the UN,’ they embody the fight for a world in which all people can demand their rights without fear.” T

For more information or an interview, please contact the media team at media@alkarama.org

FOCUS: Reprisals Continue in the Arab World as Civil Society Space Shrinks – Alkarama Foundation.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, 21 years old, deserves to be supported

May 11, 2015

Some NGOs of a regional character do not always get the international recognition they deserve. One example is the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies [CIHRS]  which celebrated its 21st anniversary in Tunisia on 23 may in Tunis.

It had a remarkably high level attendance including the Minister of Justice Mohammed Saleh Bin Eissa, the Moroccan ambassador, and diplomats and representatives of the embassies of the US, EU, UK, France, Belgium, Japan, Finland as well as the director of the Tunis bureau of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dimiter Chalev. Also present were many representatives of international and local civil society, among them Idris al-Yazmi, the head of the National Council for Human Rights in Morocco; al-Mukhtar al-Tarifi, the representative of the International Federation for Human Rights in Tunisia, and Bushra Belhaj, the chair of the rights and liberties committee in the Tunisian parliament.

The occasion was inaugurated with a one-minute silence in tribute to the victims of human rights abuses and terrorism in the Arab region. This was, followed by a note sent by the High Commissioner on Human Rights Zeid Bin Raad al-Husseini, who was unable to attend. In the note, he said that the Arab world was currently facing two related challenges: the transition to more stable democratic societies and the alarming increase in violence in the context of the rise of ISIS and other extremist takfiri groups. This lends even greater importance to rights organizations in the region that can analyze these difficulties, spread a culture of tolerance, promote respect for human rights, and engage in a constructive dialogue on cultures and global human rights standards. For more than two decades, Raad said, the CIHRS has been engaged in these missions, becoming a strong advocate and defender of human rights that has won international recognition and several awards. It also enjoys credibility in the region, having given a voice to those who are afraid to speak and stood up against religious bigotry and hate speech.

Tunisian Minister of Defense Farhat Horchani also sent a note of congratulations to the CIHRS, expressing his regret for being unable to attend. This may be the first time a rights group has received such a missive from a defense minister in the region. Horchani, who has no military background, was the dean of the Faculty of Law and Political Science in Tunis, the chair of the Tunisian Association for Constitutional Law, and a member of several other civic associations. A UN expert, he was also a member of the High Body for the Realization of the Objectives of the Revolution in Tunisia. The Ministry of Women apologized for not attending, but also sent its congratulations and wished the CIHRS the best for its new start in Tunisia.

During the celebration, special tribute was paid to Minister of Constitutional Bodies and Civil Society Kamal Jendoubi, the chair of the CIHRS board of directors.

CIHRS director Bahey eldin Hassan expressed his gratitude to all those who supported CIHRS in its long journey on the regional and international levels, and noted that this is an historic moment for the Arab region, with increased concern for the respect for human rights. It is no coincidence, Hassan added, that the collapsed states (Syria, Libya, and Iraq) in which terrorist chose to settle, were ruled by the worst of the dictatorships for more three decades.

[Founded as a regional organization in 1994 in Cairo, the CIHRS developed its perspective on change and its priorities and strategies based on its vision of the nature of the human rights problem in the Arab world. It began to expand with the goal of strengthening its capacities to defend human rights, establishing an office in Geneva to promote coordination and ties between rights organizations in the Arab world and the OHCHR and the UN Human Rights Council. In 2014, it opened a regional branch office in Tunis and appointed a permanent representative in Brussels; it intends to soon open a branch office in another country.]

CIHRS celebrates its 21st anniversary in Tunisia and honors chair Kamal Jendoubi » Press releases » News – StarAfrica.com – News – StarAfrica.com.