North African states under scrutiny at Human Rights Council: Even during Universal Periodic Review, rights violations continue

In United Nations Human Rights Council by CIHRS

At the 21st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council currently underway in Geneva, several states from North Africa will accept the final recommendations of the Universal Periodic Reviews of the state of human rights in their territories.  Among the states under review at this session are Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco.

In the context of the Universal Periodic Review, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) presented an oral intervention Delivered by Kamal Labidi on the 19th of September, warning in it that if Tunisia fails to swiftly implement the Council’s recommendations to uphold international standards for the freedoms of expression and assembly and for the independence of the judiciary, the country will face severe consequences. CIHRS expressed its concern regarding “increasing attempts to control the public media establishment and attacks on journalists and their colleagues in an atmosphere of impunity,” and that such acts are perpetrated “not only by the state authorities, but also by groups in which extremists participate alongside common criminals.”CIHRS went on to denounce that “media professionals continue to be referred to trial before a judiciary that is not yet fully independent, simply for performing their jobs.”

Turning to the state of human rights in Algeria, CIHRS condemned the new legislation which seeks to curb the work of civil society and imposes further restrictions on public liberties in its oral intervention delivered before the Human Rights Council on September 20.  CIHRS stated that the new associations law “increases restrictions on civil society and blatantly contradicts international standards.”CIHRS also denounced the legal and judicial harassment of activists in the country, including the case of “four human rights defenders who are currently being tried simply for exercising these rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression.”

Regarding the continued violations to human rights in Morocco, CIHRS delivered another oral intervention on September 19, in which it condemned “Morocco’s blatant interference in Sahrawis’ exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly, including by banning dissenting political views on Western Sahara, blocking the formation and interfering with the work of NGOs focusing on the region, and the violent dispersal of peaceful demonstrations.” CIHRS also expressed its deep concern that “the Working Group’s report (regarding the UPR) does not consistently display the many references to Western Sahara made by states at the oral review. While some of these references were retained, others were completely removed or stripped of their significance.”

Additionally, CIHRS presented an oral intervention regarding the same concerns on September 21 in cooperation with a number of other international rights organizations, declaring that what had been seen at this session of amendments to the UPR recommendations made through deals between states behind closed doors puts the usefulness of the UPR at risk and renders the participation of civil society in the UPR process ineffective.

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