Posts Tagged ‘Khalid Ibrahim’

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: Gulf Center for Human Rights 

April 9, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, here the position of Khalid Ibrahim, executive director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) posted on 8 April 2020 in Global Voices:

COVID19 cases in the MENA region have led governments to institute containment and other measures to slow the spread the highly contagious coronavirus. These measures have especially targeted some of the most vulnerable groups such as human rights defenders in prison, migrant workers and independent media. The Gulf Center for Human Rights have tracked how some of these measures have seriously impacted the overall human rights situation in the region.

Below is GHCR’s brief human rights review of COVID-19’s impact on the MENA region:

1. Detained human rights defenders

The reality is that most human rights defenders are still in prison in the MENA region at a time when governments including those of Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt released some prisoners as part of preventive measures to contain the spread of the virus. With the spread of COVID-19, the lives of jailed human rights defenders are at imminent risk in countries such as Iran, Egypt, Kuwait, Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria and other countries that have crowded prisons lacking minimum health standards. Among those currently imprisoned are Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and Nabeel Rajab, founding directors of the GCHR, serving a life sentence and five years in jail, respectively. In the United Arab Emirates, Ahmed Mansoor has been held in solitary confinement for three years, serving a 10-year jail sentence for his human rights activism, including peacefully expressing his views on social media. In Saudi Arabia, women’s rights activist Lugain al-Hathloul also remains in prison.

2. Access to information and shutting down newspapers

Most governments in the MENA region are not releasing the actual numbers of cases of those infected with the virus and also making it very difficult for journalists to have access to reliable information about the spread, treatment, and the victims of COVID-19. Also, journalists who are providing factual information about the crisis to citizens are at risk.

….In Oman, on March 22, 2020, the Supreme Committee for Dealing with COVID-19 ordered all newspapers, magazines, and other publications to cease printing and circulating, according to the Times of Oman, which published the committee’s order. The order also prohibited the sale and circulation of newspapers, magazines and publications imported into the country. In Morocco, that same day, the minister of culture, youth and sports, Hassan Abyaba, announced in a statement the suspension of the publication and distribution of print newspapers until further notice. Also, in Jordan, on March 17, 2020, the Jordanian Council of Ministers suspended the publication of all newspapers for two weeks, according to an official statement by the Jordanian Communications Minister Amjad Adaileh. Newspapers continued to be suspended due to the quarantine and the government’s demand for citizens to stay in their homes.

3. Draft law threatened freedom of expression in Tunisia

4. Temporary imprisonment for spreading rumours in UAE

On April 1, 2020, the Gulf News, a daily English-language newspaper based in Dubai, published an article that says that “people who circulate rumours may be jailed for one year if they spread false information.” It is now possible that COVID-19 could be used as a pretext to imprison some of the bloggers and Internet activists who are targeted by the State Security Apparatus (SSA).

5. Location-tracking applications

Some Gulf states such as Bahrain are using location-tracking technologies which would enable the full detection of the movement of citizens. There are concerns that the use of these applications in countries widely known for gross and documented violations of human rights will allow them to place greater restrictions on personal freedoms.

6. Xenophobia against migrant workers in the Gulf

…..Reports that GCHR received from various Gulf countries confirmed that migrant workers are not given equal access to medical care and they are facing some difficult time at the moment, as many of them already live and work in poor conditions. Authorities across MENA could help stop the spread of COVID-19 by freeing all human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience because they do not pose a risk to the public — but rather are at great risk themselves. While detained, authorities must uphold the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners to provide basic healthcare and sanitation for all. It is also important to allow visits from UN experts and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

https://advox.globalvoices.org/2020/04/08/impact-of-covid-19-containment-measures-on-human-rights-and-civil-liberties-in-the-middle-east/

Gulf Center publishes 2018 survey of human rights in the Middle East

March 12, 2019

A Bahraini woman sits near portraits of jailed political activists, in the village of Sitra, 12 February 2016
A Bahraini woman sits near portraits of jailed political activists, in the village of Sitra, 12 February 2016  MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) released its seventh annual report on human rights activism in 2018, entitled Breaking Boundaries. It remembers the women and men human rights defenders imprisoned for their work across the region, particularly in Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The report features a summary and case updates of 145 women and men human rights defenders across the Gulf and neighbouring countries as well as the legal and political developments relevant to human rights in these countries. Additionally, it summarises GCHR’s research, advocacy and capacity-building activities with regional and international partners. [for my earlier post on the GCHR, see:  https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/gulf-centre-for-human-rights/]

In this 2018 report, GCHR recognises that despite increased restrictions on civic space and aggressive prosecution of human rights defenders, the boundaries crumbling since 2011 are worth celebrating. In the act of breaking these boundaries, solidarity networks nationally, regionally, and internationally have been nurtured and strengthened. With continued activism of journalists, human rights defenders and civil society, GCHR foresees that governments’ disrespect for human rights and freedoms in the region will be increasingly overturned.

The main focus of the report is to shed light on human rights activism. While governments intensified their harassment and prosecution of journalists, human rights defenders, online activists, and civilians, through the advocacy efforts of civil society on different fronts, the defence of human rights in the region has been met with international recognition, including many international awards for human rights defenders from across the Gulf and neighbouring countries.

The spotlight on governments, especially in the Gulf, unveiled the extent to which governments reject accountability to their people and commitment to human rights internationally. To mention a few examples: Bahrain denied the entry of United Nations experts along with extending travel bans on human rights defenders so they continue to miss UN Human Rights Council sessions. In Iraq, peaceful assembly was met with tear gas and live bullets to disperse the protests, leaving dozens killed and hundreds arrested. In Iran, well-known lawyers were among those sentenced to prison for defending women’s rights to reject forced hijab. And notoriously, Saudi Arabia arbitrarily arrested over 20 men and women who defend and advocate for women’s rights, even after the Kingdom formally lifted the driving ban on women.

Khalid Ibrahim, Executive Director of GCHR, says: “It is hard work to support human rights defenders and ensure their safety and security. Yet a success such as having the European Parliament formally and publicly denounce human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia in May 2018 and again in February 2019 shows the importance of diligence, solidarity and commitment to research- and evidence-based advocacy in the pursuit of defending human rights. Not to mention the attention facing Saudi Arabia at the UN Human Rights Council this month, where 36 States, including all EU Member States, called on 7 March 2019 for the release of detained women human rights defenders, sending a strong message to the Saudi authorities that the Council will hold its members accountable.

GCHR presented a number of recommendations at the end of this report to governments, and the international community. Emphasis is placed on guarantees of a legal framework grounded in respect for human rights, especially for the freedom of expression and opinion, to protect the safety of journalists, media workers and online activists whom governments across the region relentlessly harassed, targeted, or prosecuted. Other recommendations are made to ensure the safety of civilians such as in conflict-zones, as well as in countries in transition where respect for freedom of association and assembly are essential for peace and justice.
To download the full report, follow the link.

https://www.ifex.org/middle_east_north_africa/2019/03/11/human-rights-activism/