Steadfast in Protest

Movement Under Control, Brutal Repression of Social Movements, Constant Pressure on the Media, NGOs Under Surveillance...

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) launches its Annual Report 2009.

Several countries in the region – Syria since 1963, Egypt since 1981 and Algeria since 1992 – remained under a state of emergency. Inherent emergency legislation provided a legal framework for certain attacks on human rights, especially the right to a fair trial. Indeed, civilians, including human rights defenders, continued to be tried by special courts set up through emergency legislation (Egypt, Syria).
There was also widespread recourse to the law to restrict defenders’ fields of activity and to criminalise their work or silence them. Several countries armed themselves with a legislative arsenal intended to restrict freedoms of peaceful assembly (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt) and of association (Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Syria). Other countries, such as Libya and Saudi Arabia, still did not recognise or, as was the case with Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, continued to severely restrict the right to freedom of association. Arbitrary judicial proceedings against defenders were legion, on the basis of common law provisions (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen), emergency legislation (Syria) or anti-terrorism laws (Bahrain).
Added to this were smear campaigns (Bahrain, Tunisia), arbitrary arrests and routine obstacles to freedom of movement (Bahrain, Israel/ Occupied Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen), physical attacks (Tunisia), torture (Bahrain, Egypt) and enforced disappearances (Syria). In certain of the region’s countries, the almost systematic repression of any dissenting voice acted as a dissuasive to any attempt to embark on public human rights activities and put those who tried to do so in considerable danger (Libya, Saudi Arabia). The absence of any independent human rights organisations in most of the Gulf States, with the exception of Bahrain and Kuwait, additionally made it difficult to monitor human rights violations on a daily basis.
From the topics discussed in the report: violation of freedom of association, freedom of movement under control, brutal repression of social movements, acts of intimidation against defenders of the rights of minorities, constant pressure on the media and journalists who denounce human rights violations, repression of demonstrations, trade union members arrested, NGOs under surveillance.

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