The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies delivers its first oral statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council together with 13 human rights organizations:
Arab governments are responsible for the deteriorating human rights situation in the region
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) has confirmed a continuation in the deteriorating human rights situation and general freedoms in the Arab region in light of an absent political will for reform by most Arab governments. In this regard, CIHRS added that poverty and economic problems can in no way be used as a justification for the perpetration of human rights violations, especially given that wealthy countries such as Libya and many others do have a record of serious human rights violations. On the other hand, Morocco’s recent declaration to withdraw its reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the most significant reforms recently ordered by the King of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, in the government, the armed forces, the judiciary as well as the religious establishment since the establishment of the Kingdom including changing the head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) and removing the conservative Supreme Judicial Council leader – known for his consistent resistance for reform – are all evidence of change. In fact, despite its limited effect, such change is an indication that political will can indeed address some of the cultural barriers that place Islamic Shari’a Law in conflict with human rights. Excuses such as the fear of possible anarchy and political turmoil did not prevent the authorities in Egypt from authorizing the publication of new independent newspapers.
This was addressed in CIHRS’s intervention during the tenth session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) of the United Nations held in Geneva from March 2 – 27, 2009. 13 other Arab human rights organizations joined the intervention, namely the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA), Human Rights First Society (HRFS) of Saudi Arabia, the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH), the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH), the National Council for Liberties in Tunisia (CNLT), the Khartoum Center for Human Rights and Environmental Development (KCHRED), the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the Damascus Center for Human Rights (DCHR), the Palestinian Human Rights Organization (PHRO) and the Lebanon and Yemen Observatory for Human Rights (YOHR).
CIHRS’ intervention has moreover tackled the increased recourse to measures of oppression and the excessive use of force in suppressing the levels of social mobility and protest that are on the rise, especially in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Sudan.
Furthermore, the intervention confirmed that reform advocates, human rights activists, journalists, authors and internet bloggers in the Arab region have become the targets of increasing patterns of repression.
In Egypt, NGOs are faced with mounting security pressures and in Syria, prominent members of the Damascus Declaration for National Democratic Change coalition were jailed after unfair trials. Syrian authorities have continued to deny human rights organizations in the country the authorization to operate legally and have denied many of their activists the permission to travel. Today, many Syrian human rights defenders, activists and opposition figures are languishing in Syrian prisons after unfair trials. In Tunisia, authorities exercise strict control over the LTDH, routinely harassing activists and raiding their homes.
In Algeria, activists reporting serious violations that occurred during the 1990s currently face threats of unfair trials and prison sanctions. In Bahrain, the excessive use of force in curtailing peaceful demonstrations has led to the death of a human rights activist and the arbitrary detention, torture and unfair trial of many others. In Morocco, severe restrictions continue to be imposed on human rights organizations operating in the desert region.
In Sudan, journalists and human rights activists have been subjected to detention and torture for criticizing the atrocities perpetrated in Darfur and for allegedly collaborating with the International Criminal Court (ICC). Meanwhile, reform advocates in Saudi Arabia are subjected to prolonged detention without charges or trial in order to make an example out of them.
CIHRS’s intervention underlined that the rights to freedom of expression and information exchange in the Arab region have, in turn, become a target of repressive measures through the misuse of anti-freedom of expression as well as anti-terrorism legislations in addition to the use of the judiciary system to apply constraints on the right to freedom of expression and to penalize journalists, authors and bloggers as well as exercise wide-scale censorship over newspapers.
The intervention has further added that blocking websites is widely practiced throughout the region, especially in Tunisia, Syria, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Bloggers are the target of arbitrary detention under the emergency law in Egypt. Simultaneously, the religious establishments impose repressive restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and information exchange and widely confiscate publications throughout the region.
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