17 Regional and International Human Rights Organizations Urge Arab Foreign Ministers to Amend Proposal for an Arab Court of Human Rights

arab_leagueflagOn 31 August, 17 regional and international human rights organizations sent a joint statement to Arab foreign ministers, urging them to delay their adoption of a statute on an Arab Court for Human Rights. The foreign ministers are scheduled –according to the Secretary General of the Arab League – to make a decision about adopting the statute during the assembly of the Ministerial Council of the Arab League to be held between 3 – 8, September 2014.

According to the signatories of the statement, the proposed draft statute does not serve the aim of establishing an Arab Court of Human Rights, which is to provide justice to victims of human rights violations. The signatories noted that although the main goal of the Arab Court is to provide an effective equity mechanism for violations of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, the Arab Charter itself should be amended in a way that guarantees compliance with international human rights standards, including the right to life, the prohibition of the death penalty, the prohibition of harsh, humiliating, or inhuman treatment, gender equality, and the right to freedom of thought and belief.

The signatories have especially criticized Article 19 of the statute, which limits the jurisdiction of the court to “any state against whom a case of human rights violation is made,” and gives states the power to decide whether or not NGOs could present cases on behalf of individuals. The article, thus, dilutes the effectiveness of the court as it is unlikely that officials would allow organizations to seek accountability of their states through it.

In addition to the Cairo Institute for Human Rights, the signatories of the statement are International Commission of Jurists, International Federation of Human Rights, Open Society Foundations, Arab Regional Office, Al Haq, Human Rights Watch, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Amnesty International, Association des Magistrats Tunisiens, Legal Agenda, Human Rights Information and Training Center, Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Bahrain Human Rights Society, Palestinian Human Rights Organization, Yemeni Organization for the Defence of Human Rights and Democratic Freedoms, Amman Center for Human Rights Studies, and Amel Association International, Beirut, Lebanon.

For the text of the joint statement issued to Arab foreign ministers.

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