Geneva - The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor urged the ruling authorities in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Yemen to end prosecution and arrest of human rights defenders on background of political dissent, calling for an end to all harassment campaigns and for abiding by the principles of international humanitarian law.
The challenges facing human rights defenders in Egypt have increased markedly over the past two years. The recent campaign by the government is aimed to silence dissenting voices condemning human rights violations and arbitrary arrests, said Ghada al-Rayyan, Euro-Med’s researcher.
Among these violations are the unfair trials against detainees, physical assault, detention, arbitrary judicial proceedings, defamation, travel bans and freezing of their financial assets.
Al-Rayyan explained that the Egyptian authorities impose restrictions on the freedom of opinion and expression on the pretext of combating terrorism in order to justify arresting and prosecuting opinion leaders and journalists, as well as harassing peaceful opposition, civil society activists and the independent media.
Al-Rayyan reviewed violations committed by the Egyptian authorities against activists and human rights defenders such as arrest, detention and the suppression of human rights activities. Since 2014, the most prominent human rights defenders and human rights organizations have been subjected to a large-scale crackdown in which the security services exerted pressure or threats on representatives of human rights NGOs.
Al-Rayyan concluded her statement by calling on the Egyptian authorities to ensure that all human rights defenders are duly prosecuted in accordance with Egypt's obligations under international human rights law.
The violations against human rights defenders and humanitarian workers in Yemen have increased since the beginning of the armed conflict, said Alaa Barghouthi, Euro-Med’s Media Officer.
Barghouthi pointed to the shocking cases of violations against human rights defenders in Yemen, highlighting some of these where activists faced arrest without a warrant from the prosecution, beatings, confiscation of personal belongings, as well as deliberate assassination of professionals and activists.
In 2018, 138 violations of the right to freedom of information in Yemen have been committed, including 13 violations of the right to life, and 11 attacks on public freedoms, with arbitrary arrests reaching 53 cases, torture to 11 incidents, and illegal trials to 13.
On the situation of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, human rights researcher Lamia Fadila explained that the crackdown on defenders has escalated since 2017, despite Saudi officials promising since that period political and economic reforms allowing freedom of individuals in the Kingdom.
Fadila reviewed a number of documented cases of violations against human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, such as Lujain Al-Hathloul, Saudi rights activist and defender of women's rights, who joined the women's driving campaign in Saudi Arabia in more than one occasion and was arrested several times.
The Euro-Mediterranean Observatory and Swiss Solidarity recommended at the end of the seminar that the Human Rights Council and the Special Rapporteurs follow up on the violations against human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Yemen and to set up an investigation committees seeking to bring those responsible to trial through the formation of a competent tribunal through the Security Council and the International Criminal Court.
The two organizations called on the international community to immediately and urgently exert pressure on all parties involved in detaining and torturing civilians in the three countries to immediately stop policies of enforced disappearance, systematic torture and all other forms of ill-treatment, while revealing the fate of those detained in secret prisons.
The two organizations stressed that governments in the three countries must abide by international conventions and treaties to protect human rights defenders and to give the highest priority to the safety and freedom of civilian prisoners, including human rights defenders.