General: GCHR activities during UN Human Rights Council’s 50th session and the UN Committee against Torture’s 74th Session (June-July 2022)

20.07.22

Country Resolution on Syria.

Syria is the subject of a resolution during each session. Alongside other subjects, this session focused on gender equality and violence against women and girls. The initial draft was strong, with little debate on the text itself and a lack of engagement on the text from certain states that argue against country-specific resolutions. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) participated in the informal sessions to review the draft and offered suggestions, some of which were incorporated into the final resolution.  

Joint NGO call for HRC action on Saudi Arabia

Given the deteriorating human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, notably the mass execution of 81 men in March 2022, GCHR along with Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI), and ALQST for Human Rights issued a call for action by the Human Rights Council on Saudi Arabia. This is part of a long-term advocacy effort to push for action on Saudi Arabia.

UN Committee Against Torture (CAT): 74th Session (12-29 July) – United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The UN Committee Against Torture is a body of ten independent experts monitoring the implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).

GCHR along with the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), and the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) submitted a joint report on the UAE for the review originally planned in 2020, but which was delayed to July 2022 due to Covid-19. The report was substantially updated, and on that basis, GCHR made a statement at the NGO briefing for the CAT addressing concerns over the inadequate legal framework to prevent torture, the use of torture by security official to obtain confessions and convictions with impunity, and the use of prolonged solitary confinement. GCHR also participated in the formal sessions where the CAT questioned the UAE Delegation (numbering over 30 individuals). While the CAT asked comprehensive questions on legal framework and practice, the UAE’s responses focused on the legal framework, leaving the actual practice largely unaddressed.    

Online Side Events

Side events were held on the UAE (July 01) and Bahrain (July 08) – Full Detail below the next Section.

UN side event on the UAE

On 01 July 2022, the GCHR, Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre (EDAC), MENA Rights Group, and OMCT organised a side event during the fiftieth session of the UN Human Rights Council under the title, "A political trial ended and its violations" ongoing". The event was held on the occasion of the ninth anniversary of the issuance of the unjust sentences against the UAE94 group.

Speaking at the event, which was moderated by the Executive Director of the GCHR, Khalid Ibrahim, were Hamad Al-Shamsi, a human rights defender, a member of the UAE94 group who was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison in the UAE and Executive Director of EDAC, Jenan Al-Marzooqi, a UAE woman human rights defender, Ramzi Kais, a legal researcher at MENA Rights Group, Dr. Khouloud Al-Khatib, a woman human rights defender and Chairperson of the GCHR advisory board, and Ashraf Afi, a member of the Tunis office of OMCT.

Ibrahim opened the session by talking about the trial that took place for the UAE94, which lacked the lowest international standards for fair trial procedures and, according to experts, appears as though its rulings were issued by the State Security Apparatus even before the trial was held. Regarding the gross human rights violations committed by the authorities in the UAE, he said the following: "It is disgraceful that the UAE is a member of the Human Rights Council and commits brutal violations against human rights, targeting innocent families and keeping prisoners of conscience in prisons despite the end of their sentences."

Al-Shamsi described all the violations committed against members of the Emirates 94 group, including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, unfair trial, heavy prison sentences issued against them on false charges, and the authorities' reluctance to release those who completed their sentences. Describing the torture, they were subjected to, he said, "Torture affected everyone, even judges were not spared from it, and among them was Judge Dr. Ahmed Yousef Al-Zaabi, a former member of the judiciary in the Emirates."

Al-Marzooqi spoke about the case of her father, prisoner of conscience and member of the Emirates 94, Abdulsalam Muhammad Darwish Al-Marzooqi, and said, "My father was subjected to physical and psychological torture, health neglect, and threats of beatings and death! All his complaints were ignored, and he was sentenced to ten years!"

Qais talked about vague laws, including the terrorism law, as well as the release of the State Security Apparatus against human rights defenders and other activists. Qais emphasized that, "Under the UAE terrorism law, dissenting from the state is a terrorist crime, and as a result anyone who criticizes the authority runs the risk of being considered a terrorist attack." Qais also spoke about arbitrary arrests and counseling centers in the Emirates.

Dr. Al-Khatib expressed her pain at what is happening in the UAE, saying, "It is very painful to see human rights defenders in the UAE facing all these cruel forms of arrest, arbitrary detention and torture." She added, "Every objection and anyone who criticizes the UAE authorities has become a terrorist according to UAE laws."

Afi described the role of the World Organisation Against Torture in the Middle East and North Africa and its program to assist torture victims and their families. He also presented the recommendations of the joint report submitted to the United Nations Committee against Torture regarding the United Arab Emirates.

The full recording of the meeting is available HERE.

UN Side event on Bahrain

The GCHR in co-operation with Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (AHRDB), Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy in Bahrain (BIRD), and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) organised on 08 July 2022, a side event entitled, “Prison Conditions in Bahrain: Authorities should implement the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules)".

During the side event, which was moderated by executive director of the GCHR, Khalid Ibrahim, and included the speakers, Asma Darwish, from BCHR, Joelle Oneissi, from ADHRB, Josie Thum from BIRD, and Maria Sologianni from FIDH, a report that has the title, “Prison Conditions in Bahrain” was launched.

Khalid Ibrahim opened the event and talked about the fact that Since 2011, Bahrain authorities have sentenced thousands of people in connection to the February 14 popular movement and for pro-democracy activities. Many of them are facing deteriorating conditions in prisons. He, along with the speakers, demanded the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience in the country.

Asmaa Darwish, called for extending the scope of application of alternative punishments to include all those imprisoned for their political activities, as well as inmates with special medical and social conditions.

Joel Oneissi demanded the improvement of treatment in prisons and stressed the necessity of releasing all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Bahrain.

Josie Thump focused on the case of Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace for whom the event coincided with the first anniversary of his hunger strike. Thum demanded the return of his confiscated research. She said that more efforts need to be put in place to make the UK government issue a public call for his release and the return of his research.

Maria Sologianni said “FIDH wishes to draw attention to the very nature of those prisoners who are human rights defenders in prison for their opinions and their work and not offenders criminals.” She also said that FIDH called on the authorities in Bahrain to fully implement the Nelson Mandela rules and expressed concerns about the situations in prisons in the country.

For the full recording of the side event click HERE.