General: Gulf Centre for Human Rights celebrates International Human Rights Day with partners

12.12.20

On 10 December 2020, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) celebrated International Human Rights Day at an event held in Beirut in partnership with IFEX, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Maharat Foundation, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and Media Association for Peace (MAP).

The event was moderated by Khalid Ibrahim, Executive Director of GCHR, who opened the seminar by saying, "This day is an opportunity for all of us to remember the victims of human rights violations as well as our colleagues who are still in prisons due to their serious, sincere and continuous work to uphold the values ​​of freedom, justice, human dignity and create a prosperous future for all citizens without exception."

The first to speak was, Mary Lawler, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders who said, "It’s important that we meet like this in solidarity. I know defenders across the region are under attack in Iraq, in Syria and Yemen and in many other countries. One of the major priorities for the mandate is the issue of the killing of human rights defenders and it will be the focus of my next report to the Human Rights Council to be presented in March 2021. Another priority for me is the issue of human rights defenders who are serving long prison sentences, and sadly we know that the region has so many of them from Saudi to the Emirates to Bahrain. I know that Mohammed Al-Roken, Ahmed Mansoor and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja are at the heart of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights."

She promised, "Whether it’s Abdulhadi in Bahrain, or Loujain and Samar and others in Saudi, or Mohammed Al-Roken (who used to send me jokes), I will use my position as Special Rapporteur to do what I can, meet whom I can, ask what I can and try to have all human rights defenders who serving long sentences released from jail." 

Nedal Al-Salman, President of BCHR, Convenor of IFEX and Vice-President of FIDH, said, "The most prominent punishment that violates human rights is the death penalty, because it strikes the most important human right, which is the right to life, and this punishment is still applied in Bahrain. Broadly, there is no response from the Bahraini government to international demands to abolish this penalty."

Roula Mikhael, Executive Director of Maharat, pointed to the increase in the equality gap and the decline in opportunities for social justice, adding, "More than half of the population is below the poverty line, and violations of human rights have increased, most notably: the right to life and physical integrity, the right to information and access to information, the right to assembly and peaceful expression; as well as other rights related to food, housing and health."

Vanessa Bassil, President of MAP, said, "On this special occasion, we must remember the essential role that human rights play in building peace." She also stressed "the importance of respecting freedom of opinion and expression, the protection of journalists, including women journalists, and activists, and supporting them in their human rights mission, which preserves human value and restores lost freedoms."

Rawda Ahmed, Deputy Director of ANHRI, indicated that, "International Human Rights Day this year coincides with unprecedented attacks on human rights defenders in Egypt." She added, "They are defamed in the media, and cases are fabricated, and they are prevented from traveling and disposing of their money; and they are subjected to physical attacks, as happened with the director of ANHRI, Gamal Eid. In fact, three staff of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights were arrested, and they were subjected to investigations in cases related to terrorism, and they were only released after the launch of an international campaign to demand their release."

Then there was a screening of the short documentary film "The Story of the Journalist Fatima", which is one of four documentaries produced by GCHR on the life of journalists in Yemen who found themselves for reasons of war, poverty, or politics losing not only their main source of income, but also their calling in life. You can find the four documentaries on GCHR’s YouTube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCe_gaPuLgPVIeltuz0Iz--g

The event video is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pi2g46391Mg&t=9s

The event concluded with a series of questions and answers between the speakers and the attendees, which was characterised by an effective healthy discussion.