[The following report was published by the Gulf Center for Human Rights on 1 March 2014]
Rising Human Rights Challenges in the Gulf Region and Beyond: Annual Report of the Gulf Center for Human Rights 2014
This is the second annual report of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR). GCHR documents the human rights environment for human rights defenders working in the six Gulf Cooperation Council member states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), as well as Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Syria. Syria has been included, not because it is typically considered a Gulf country, but because GCHR believes it is essential to document the ongoing large scale human rights atrocities occurring in a country that is close to the Gulf region and because the Syrian conflict has significant regional implications.
During 2013, GCHR documented human rights violations throughout the Gulf region, undertook observation missions, and trained nearly 150 human rights defenders, including on digital security, security generally, the use of UN mechanisms, the use of social media to promote human rights, transitional justice, stress management and well-being, and mechanisms for investigating and documenting human rights violations. In cooperation with its international partners, GCHR also secured various grants for human rights defenders and their organizations. In addition, GCHR undertook human rights missions to UAE, Yemen, Oman and Kuwait.
GCHR believes that the situation for human rights defenders is worsening in the Gulf region. Across the region, those who lobby for the promotion and protection of human rights, document rights violations, express dissenting views, align with the political opposition or, in some cases, simply deliver humanitarian aid have been painted as threats to state security and consequently punished. Indeed, in almost every country reported on, authoritarian regimes are severely restricting the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association in an effort to silence dissent. For example, governments are restricting freedom of expression on the Internet through new laws that criminalize criticism online. Governments are meeting peaceful protestors with violence. Would-be reformers have been imprisoned. Defenders who seek to cooperate with international human rights bodies have faced reprisals both at home and abroad. Human rights defenders have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention, ill-treatment at times amounting to torture, unfair trials and disproportionate prison sentences. The report concludes that greater international attention is necessary to ensure the protection of those who risk their lives in both the exercise and promotion of human rights throughout the Gulf. Note that the scale of abuses in certain countries required more attention than others.
In March 2013, the UN Human Rights Council passed its first ever resolution affirming the specific rights of human rights defenders. This recognition is important because GCHR has documented an increase in both the targeting of human rights defenders and in the restrictions placed on their activities throughout the year in the Gulf Region.
[Click here to read the full report]