General: Reprisals & harassment against HRDs in the Gulf region & neighbouring countries: UN HRC must act immediately


Geneva, 22 September 2016 - The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) hosted a side event in co-operation with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Human Rights Watch (HRW), the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) at the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on 22 September 2016 entitled “Reprisals & harassment against HRDs in the Gulf region & neighbouring countries: UN HRC must act immediately.”

Laila Matar, UN Advocate at Human Rights Watch's office in Geneva, moderated the side event, and said that engaging with civil society is an important component of UN work.

Prominent human rights defender from the UAE Ahmed Mansoor, in a recorded speech, explained how he has been targeted for his work both off and online, including being hacked. Also, he mentioned other cases of reprisals in the UAE such as the cases of Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken and Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith, both of whom remain jailed for their human rights work.

Maryam Al-Khawaja, GCHR Co-Director, noted the pattern of reprisals as a popular trend across the region, and particular in Bahrain where numerous human rights defenders have been prevented from attending the UNHRC in June and September. She said, “We have reached a point in which reprisals are used to prevent people from working with the UN.”

In August, GCHR published a report on “Liberty at Risk: Reprisals Against Human Rights Defenders in the Gulf Region and Neighbouring Countries.” See:

Phil Lynch, Executive Director of ISHR, mentioned some key issues related to reprisals in the region, including impunity for human rights violations. He stressed the need to address impunity systematically.

Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary-General, said that reprisals are a symptom of cutting ties with international bodies and NGOs.

Peggy Hicks, Director of Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures, and Right to Development Division in the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, said that we need to spread good practices. She also said that engaging with civil society is not just a right but also a need.

The meeting, which was well attended, then concluded with a round of questions and answers.