On the 10th of June 2003, the Lebanese capital has witnessed the opening session of the regional conference titled “Towards an effective regional protection for human rights: which Arab convention for human rights?” This conference was organized by Cairo institute for human rights studies, in cooperation with the association for defending rights & liberties “justice”. The conference was an attempt to influence the meetings of the Arab permanent committee on human rights in the league of Arab states, which was supposed to revise & update the Arab human rights convention in the period between (18- 26) June. The convention has been harshly criticized since it was declared in 1994 & none of the Arab states ratified it.
Mr. ghassan Mokhaibar, the head of “justice” association started his speech by welcoming all participants, stressing the special importance of the conference & the variety of its participants _between formal & informal experts_ aiming at influencing the formal decision making process in an early stage. He also stressed the necessity of sticking to _what he called_ the great dream of finding an effective mechanism for protecting rights & liberties in Arab countries.
As emphasized by Mr. Bahey eldeen hassan, the head of Cairo institute for human rights studies (cihrs), the mission of the conference will not be easy regarding its response to the expectations of building up a regional mechanism to strengthen & protect human rights in the Arab world, as stated in the international standards. He also expressed his doubts that updating the convention may _in the contrary_ go with the desires of many governments who would like to liberate themselves from any responsibilities in order to attract all parties to ratify the convention in a huge carnival party. This could help improve the position of Arab governments, he said. However, the reality is still marked by oppression, he added.
Mr. Bahey then felt sorry that the philosophy of the colonial era, which promoted the idea that the peoples of the Arab world are not prepared for modernization & self rule, is still applied under a national rule that stresses humiliating the mentality of people.
On the other hand, Mr. Marwan Fares, the head of the human rights committee in the Lebanese House of Representatives argued that Arab human rights are part & parcel of the international human rights all over the world. He stressed the close link between individual rights & group rights. Mr. Fares put special emphasis on the occupation of Arab land, under which individual rights, group rights, principles of justice were abused.
In the same context, Mr. Mahmoud Rashed, the head manager of human rights in the league of Arab states, stressed the necessity of updating the Arab human rights convention in order to go with the current international changes, as well as the challenges & threats facing the region. These challenges _as he said_ call for a comprehensive reform that can improve the Arab regional system by moving it from a state of recession to a state of action.
In his speech in the conference, Mr. Farag Feneish, the senior commissioner for human rights, gave special attention to the necessity of revising the Arab human rights convention, & particularly in the points that contradict with the standards set in the international covenants, especially in fields like economic & social rights. In addition to the absence of a proper mechanism to keep the convention effective & monitor abuses.
Mr. Abdel Aziz Banany, the head of the euro Mediterranean network for human rights, gave his speech on behalf of the network & the international federation for human rights, in which he stressed the importance of creating a regional system for protecting human rights. He argued that this system should follow the international standards for human rights, which could never be sacrificed in the name of “cultural privacy”, which contradicts with the principles appreciated by Islam. Creating an effective regional mechanism for protecting human rights _he added_ is difficult to be accomplished without ratifying the international conventions in this regard, & implementing them in reality.
In the first session of the conference, there were many discussions regarding the strategies of democratic movement in the Arab world facing both, the imperial project on one hand, & the despotic regimes on the other hand.
In a paper prepared by Dr. Mohammed Alsayed Said, the head deputy of Al Ahram center for political & strategic studies, he argued that the Arab despotic regimes are remaining on the same track of despotism & tyranny without any real improvement, which increases doubts in the possibility of reaching an Arab convention for protecting human rights. Dr. Said added that the war on Iraq has shed the light on huge differences that do exist among the forces who are looking forward to achieving democracy _in the context of the new colonial attacks. In this regard, there were divisions among three groups. The 1st group preferred to ally with the authoritarian regimes in facing imperialism & Islamic extremists. The 2nd group allied with imperialists against the despotism of the state. Finally, the third group found it better to ally with Islamic extremists in facing both, imperialism & state despotism. Al said then emphasized the necessity of integrating all democratic forces in the political field around an independent strategy that seeks to put an end to political contradictions on democratic bases, free from both, state despotism & political & totalitarian Islam.
The main stream of the discussion gave an impression that the authoritarian & totalitarian regimes in the Arab world are divided, & that some external colonial forces are taking advantage of this division. Moreover, the existence of American forces in the region has become a clear signal of the fall of many Arab regimes that’re no longer able to act as a proxy of the USA in achieving its targets in the region. Accordingly, the USA appears to be the only party that has a project for change in the Arab region, which is _of course_ driven by American interests.
Some of the speakers of the conference stressed the importance of the ethical dimension in any human rights movement facing the current challenges. In other words, any human rights movement should go against tyranny, no matter whether it is practiced internally or externally. Some other views harshly criticized the position of the Arab cultural elite who cooperated with the criminal Iraqi regime for a long period of time. These views also pointed to the idea that welcoming the American occupation reflects the hopeless case of the Iraqi people regarding their ability to impose change.
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