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



Executive Summary 

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) works to create a safer environment and offer support to human rights defenders. In 2017, GCHR increased its advocacy and support to men and women human rights defenders – including independent lawyers, academics, journalists and online activists – from the Gulf region and neighbouring countries, with an emphasis on building their capacity to carry out their own documentation and advocacy, while building a communal space for activism.

GCHR tailors innovative strategies and develops methodologies to sustain a network for human rights defenders and civil society. For the human rights defenders, the network provides the tools and skills necessary to fulfill their capacity, to connect them across borders and to support peer-learning. For GCHR, it leverages their protection and allows us to advocate on their behalf when necessary. Networking with other local and international NGOs and coalitions increases the efficacy of GCHR’s advocacy, particularly through United Nations and European Union advocacy – which are also linked to protection and support for human rights defenders at risk.

In 2017, GCHR issued 127 appeals, statements and updates on the cases of over 100 human rights defenders in 2017. In 2017, GCHR published seven evidence-based reports including its annual report.

GCHR provides direct support to human rights defenders in the region, facilitating emergency requests for assistance (medical support, training, security, trial observation, evacuation etc.) GCHR also assisted in the provision of grants to 15 human rights defenders.

As violations mount, GCHR has increased its coverage and support to women human rights defenders in the MENA region, through international partnerships and networking, including through training workshops. We have a vision of connecting social movements, fighting sectarianism/division and creating space to find common ground.

Through an evaluation carried out in late 2016 and early 2017, GCHR received important feedback from human rights defenders and partner organisations to help shape its new strategic plan for 2017 to 2020. We also received a lot of positive comments about our work, particularly the advocacy work.

GCHR’s biggest impact is "visibility that there is a human rights issue in the Gulf. GCHR has had success in providing a framework for human rights in the region vs. it being merely a framework of individuals working in human rights. There is now growing awareness of the importance of working in a group as defenders. GCHR is helping sketch out the boundaries for the human rights movement in the GCC,” said a GCHR partner

“There is now a consciousness and knowledge that the Gulf is not spared from human rights violations. GCHR is one of the few organisations that has been able to emphasise that - especially within the UN system. GCHR hosted quite a few successful side events to help solidify this knowledge and I am sure there has been an impact on specific cases. GCHR's contributions can be attributed to the fact that there are still people who can recall the cases they work on and they have actually gotten people out of prison,” said a donor.

As a result of GCHR’s work at the UN, joint statements have been passed on Bahrain, for example. A partner said, "The joint statement we delivered six times, led by the Swiss and joined by 24 other countries. It sent a very strong message to the Bahrain government and mitigated its behaviour for a while. This initiative was created in large part by the Swiss ― because of its cooperation with Maryam ― and we were able to keep it on the UN agenda for a substantial amount of time."

"I learned things from women human rights defenders here that I did not hear in other regions, for example that they receive threats from their own families and their friends ask them why they are risking their safety by criticising the authorities,” commented Michel Forst, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, at GCHR's 4th Gulf and Neighbouring Countries Platform.


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