General: On International Human Rights Day, GCHR calls for freedom of expression and assembly to be respected not restricted


As we mark International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2019, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) renews call to honour the work of human rights defenders who risk their lives and their freedom to carry out work for the benefit of all members of civil society. 

In the past few months, protesters have taken to the streets across the region, including in Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, where thousands of protesters have been arrested and hundreds killed. We call on the authorities to respect the basic human rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and to allow peaceful protests to take place without using lethal force against them.

As protests broke out across the region in 2019, we are reminded of the many human rights defenders who were killed, kidnapped or imprisoned for lengthy sentences in the wake of protests that spread in 2011, as citizens tired of corruption and unemployment, as well as impunity for human rights violations.

Across the region, from Algeria to Sudan to Morocco to Egypt, protesters have called for an end to authoritarian rule and the suppression of human rights. In some cases, protesters have succeeded in bringing about changes in government, but often at the cost of lives lost. In other countries in the region, there are no protests, because the voices of human rights defenders have been silenced by imprisonment and exile.

Yesterday, 9 December, was International Human Rights Defenders Day, when we honoured the work of human rights defenders who are at the forefront of demands to respect human rights. On this day, and every day of the year, we think of our colleagues and friends in prison, including GCHR’s Founding Directors, Abulhadi Al-Khawaja, imprisoned since 2011 in Bahrain, Nabeel Rajab, serving seven years in prison in Bahrain, and GCHR Advisory Board member Ahmed Mansoor, serving 10 years in prison in an isolation cell in the United Arab Emirates. All of them are in prison in violation of their right to freedom of expression.

On 29 November, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, we honoured the brave women at the forefront of protests in Lebanon and Iraq, and all the women who have been arrested in Iran, or in Saudi Arabia for calling for women’s rights, such as the right to drive and the right to be free of male guardianship. Saudi women’s rights defenders Loujain Al-HathloulSamar BadawiNouf Abdulaziz and Nassima Al-Sadah remain in prison awaiting sentencing following their arrest in 2018, and some have been tortured and held in prolonged solitary confinement. In Iran, women human rights defenders have been sentenced to prison for decades for affirming a woman’s right to choose whether to wear the veil, including Nasrin Sotoudeh, sentenced this year to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes.

“Today, on International Human Rights Day, we ask you to take a moment and think of all the sacrifices made by human rights defenders and activists who will never stop calling for human rights for all, and to join their calls for an end to injustice and repression,” said Khalid Ibrahim, GCHR’s Executive Director.