General: Mapping human rights violations across 12 countries and reporting on 100 human rights defenders: Gulf Centre for Human Rights releases sixth annual report


The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)’s annual report examines the closure of civic space, targeting human rights defenders, and the crackdown on civil society organisations in the Gulf and neighbouring countries, as well as the implications of repressive measures in Egypt. GCHR’s sixth annual report maps human rights violations in 2017 across 12 countries and summarising case updates on over 100 human rights defenders.

The status of human rights in the Middle East has deteriorated as targets of government reprisals increased and the forms of repression intensified. Students, journalists, academics, and civilians have been implicated by government decisions that violate human rights. Prosecution and targeting those who protect human rights encompassed various issues from defending the civil equality of the Bedoon community in Kuwait; the repression of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia; arrests and detentions for online expression and opinion in Bahrain and Oman; suppression of calls for democratisation and political reform in the United Arab Emirates; to closure of news and media outlets offices across the region.

The main strategy of GCHR’s advocacy is to present evidence- and research-based knowledge on critical issues in order to motivate action and appeal decisions that violate human rights. In this regard, GCHR released seven special reports on key human rights issues in the region such as torture and reprisals, threats to freedom of press, independent investigation on human rights violations during conflicts, racial discrimination, and the status of freedom of expression and opinion. Additionally, the annual report features a brief report on the closure of civic space in Egypt and the Gulf countries since 2011 by examining association laws and travel bans as tools of closure and intimidation.

“Authorities in our region keep coming up with new laws, and methods to persecute human rights defenders,” said Khalid Ibrahim, GCHR’s Executive Director. “GCHR is working hard to resist efforts to close civic space by looking at patterns across the region, including in new countries we haven’t covered before.”

GCHR releases the annual report during the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 37th Session, where it is carrying out advocacy for the region this month. The main highlights of these violations and cases are used to develop recommendations for governments. Essentially, security of civilians, journalists, women human rights defenders and human rights defenders is prime; as well as motivating policies and enforcement mechanisms that are conducive to an inclusive offline and online open civic space.

This report is dedicated to all the detained human rights defenders across the region including GCHR’s Founding Directors Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab both jailed in Bahrain, and GCHR Advisory Board member Ahmed Mansoor, being held incommunicado in the UAE.

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Background: The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is an independent, non-profit and non-governmental organisation that provides support and protection to human rights defenders in the Gulf region and neighbouring countries in order to promote human rights, including but not limited to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. GCHR is based in Lebanon and documents the environment for human rights defenders in the Gulf region and neighbouring countries, specifically Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.