A drawback to the calls for reform The Arab convention on human rights materializes the colonial logic towards people: A declaration from 36 human rights organizations

In League of Arab States by CIHRS

On the 21st of December 2003, the delegation of experts from the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights hosted Mr. Bahey eldeen Hasan, the head of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. Mr. Bahey introduced a detailed legal paper viewing the position of 36 human rights organizations in the Arab world, belonging to 11 Arab countries from the project of the updated Arab charter on human rights.

The paper prepared by Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies rejected the updated convention, as it materializes the ethnic & colonial ideology towards people. This racial ideology argues that the citizens of the 3rd world countries are not qualified to enjoy the same human rights enjoyed by people in colonial states, including Arab immigrants to these states!

The delegation of experts started its meetings in the league of Arab states the day before. These meetings were to last until the 26th of December, with the aim of expressing their point of view in the updated Arab human rights convention & introducing it to the League of Arab states. The league requested the technical advice of the high commissioner for human rights regarding the updated convention. However, the league didn’t request the view of human rights organization, which was then done by an initiative from the office of the high commissioner on human rights.

Although the updated convention included some improvements in some of the articles of the original convention, it preserved the main philosophy of the old one, which contradicts to human rights. On the other hand, the updated convention represented a retreat from the original one regarding some rights, especially the rights of women. It also ignored the principle that people are the source of power. Moreover, it retreated from perceiving execution as a political crime.

The convention doesn’t provide any guarantees to the right for political participation or the transparency of general elections. Nor did it provide any guarantees for the right to create political parties or even civil associations. On the contrary, it allows Arab governments to make laws that abuse the minimum rights guaranteed by the convention! What differentiates the Arab human rights convention from the rest of the regional & international documents for human rights _including the African convention_ is that it allows abuses in the right for life under the state of emergency. In addition to this, it didn’t recognize NGOs, nor did it reject slavery.

The league of Arab states has previously declared the Arab human rights convention on December 1994. However, none of the Arab states ratified it, although 9 years have passed on its declaration. On the other hand, Arab & international organizations rejected this convention, as it is contradictory to the international standards for respecting human rights. They perceived it as a kind of humiliation to the people in the Arab world.
In an attempt from Arab governments to improve their bad position in front of the international community after the 11th of September terrorist attacks, many meetings were held by the permanent committee on human rights in the League of Arab states. The committee included representatives of Arab governments during the months of June & October 2003, under the title “updating the Arab human rights convention”. Many Arab governments introduced their papers during these meetings. However, these papers were even worse than the original convention, with the exception of the paper presented by the government of morocco.

Many human rights organizations held conferences in Oman, Yemen, Cairo & Geneva around the same title. Cairo institute for human rights studies organized a regional conference in Beirut, in cooperation with the association for defending rights & liberties ” justice ” on the 10th of June, 8 days before the meeting of the League of Arab states. The conference hosted representatives of the League of Arab states, Arab governmental experts, 36 Arab organizations, 11 international organizations & a number Arab academics & intellectuals. In the closing of the conference, it issued “the Beirut declaration for regional protection of human rights in the Arab world”. The declaration warned that the Arab governmental plans may summarize the development of the convention in just some improvements within the original convention. The declaration also included 27 detailed recommendations concerning the principles, standards, guarantees & mechanisms that should control the preparation of a human rights convention in the Arab world. Governments only responded to one of these recommendations (number26), which is to make use of the office of the United Nations high commissioner for human rights.

The general assembly of the League of Arab states took charge of distributing the Beirut declaration among members of the permanent committee _during their meeting in the previous June_ together with a message from the head of Cairo institute for human rights studies regarding the declaration. Also the head of the Moroccan organization gave a presentation of the declaration in the meeting of the permanent committee, on behalf of all the organizations which participated in the Beirut conference.

Although the secretary general of the League of Arab states recommended _in the meetings of the permanent committee on human rights in the League of Arab states in the previous October_ that updating the Arab human rights convention should follow international standards, & so did the head of the committee, the majority of representatives of member states of the committee went through the opposite track. This represents a retreat to one of the attempts of reform in the Arab world, ending up with a document that’s even worse than the original document, issued 9 years ago, arousing the rejection of public opinion & human rights organizations.

Accordingly, it is expected that the rejection would be greater if a document like this was declared, especially that the whole world looks attentively at the Arab World, seeking to see one step forward, not 10 steps backward! This would cause an unprecedented sadness in the Arab world. That’s because it would be the first Arab document to be declared by representatives if the Arab world, announcing that people in this part of the world are at a lower rank, with lower efficiency & humanity than the rest of people on earth. This legitimizes the tactics for re-colonizing the region, as well as practices of racial discrimination against Arab emigrants.

Share this Post