Foreword by Alkarama’s Board of Trustees



Objectives & Activities

Support for Human Rights Defenders

Over the course of 2017, the Arab region has once again been the scene of the most serious human rights violations. While there are still no credible peace processes under way in the countries with open armed conflicts such as Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, most other countries in the region are, to varying degrees, witnessing rising tensions with their neighbours. Coupled with foreign military intervention, this situation has wreaked havoc on the safeguard of the most fundamental human rights across the region.

As protests demanding more freedoms and social rights have swept across the Arab world, dictatorships and autocracies in the region have continued to repress dissenting voices, with the aim of bringing an end to the ideals of the Arab Spring. Under the pretext of the fight against terrorism, these regimes are, in fact, directing this repression against peaceful activists and human rights defenders. Scores of individuals have been tortured, imprisoned, or even executed as a result, while states are continuously enacting new repressive laws in blatant violation of the fundamental rights of their citizens.

At this tense time, the action of organisations like Alkarama, which envision an Arab world where all individuals can live dignified lives, free from injustice, is vital. While most Western states seem to turn a blind eye to ongoing human rights violations as a result of either the rise of populism or geostrategic considerations, victims of gross abuses need our unabated support and action. We must also be aware that this escalation in human rights violations in the Arab region is a clear indicator that a new wave of the Arab Spring is to be expected. The question in this respect is definitely not if but when, and under which circumstances that will happen.

In 2017, Alkarama provided legal assistance to 516 victims of enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention and summary and extrajudicial executions. We have also produced and submitted nine reports to the UN Treaty Bodies as well as three reports to the Human Rights Council in the context of the Universal Periodic Review. Despite recurring resistance and limited resources, we have had some notable achievements and we remain hopeful that our work will lead to some positive change in the region. Over the course of the year, we have observed a pattern of Arab governments targeting primarily human rights defenders and punishing those who dare to seek remedy before the UN mechanisms. Not only are these governments violating human rights, but they are also engaging in systematic reprisals against those who denounce these violations. In this respect, Alkarama has sought the intervention of the UN Assistant Secretary General for human rights, who stated that “[w]hen those engaging with the UN face intimidation, threats, imprisonment and worse for doing so, we all lose, and the credibility of the UN is damaged. The UN as a whole has a collective responsibility to stop and prevent these reprehensible acts”.

This year, Alkarama has again been targeted by smear campaigns orchestrated by states known for their appalling human rights records. A new development, however, has been an open attack against Alkarama led by the government of the United Arab Emirates. This took the form of defamatory declarations from government officials, as well as the introduction of a resolution before the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) aimed at denying Alkarama the ECOSOC consultative status in spite of a positive recommendation made by the ECOSOC’s Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations. Such a gross manifestation of political meddling into human rights issues must be denounced. States should not be allowed to hinder the work of human rights defenders within international mechanisms set up to safeguard those very rights. Regardless, Alkarama is more determined than ever before to continue its professional and recognised work in providing legal assistance to victims in the Arab region.

We wish to thank the UN independent experts and the dedicated staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for their lasting and fruitful collaboration. We also thank all organisations, partners and friends who have expressed support for our organisation during the defamatory attacks to which we have been subjected. Finally, our work would not be possible without the dedication and steadfastness of the men and women across the Arab region often risking their lives defending human rights. We will always stand by them and express to them our most sincere recognition.

Alkarama’s Board of Trustees



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Saudi Arabia

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United Arab Emirates

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In 2017, Alkarama submitted a total of 190 complaints to the UN Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies as well as other international human rights mechanisms such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. A number of these complaints concerned more than one individual.


CAT Committee Against Torture 
CED Committee on Enforced Disappearances
CoI  UN Commission of Inquiry
HC  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
HRC  Human Rights Council
HR Committee  Human Rights Committee 
ICC International Criminal Court
GANHRI  Global Alliance of NHRIs
ICCPR  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
ICCPR-OP1  First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR
ICPPED  International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance                     
NGO  Non-Governmental Organisation
NHRI  National Human Rights Institution
NPM  National Preventive Mechanism
OHCHR  Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
OPCAT  Optional Protocol to the UNCAT
SCA  Subcommittee of the GANHRI
SPT  Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
SR FPAA  Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
SR FRDX  Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
SR HRD  Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
SR IJL  Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
SR SUMX  Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
SR CT  Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism
SRT  Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
UN  United Nations
UNCAT  Convention against Torture
UNSC  UN Security Council
UNSG  UN Secretary General
UPR  Universal Periodic Review 
WGAD  Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
WGEID  Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances

Other terms

COMMUNICATION  A letter sent by Alkarama to UN protection mechanisms on an individual case of a human rights violation
SHADOW REPORT  A report to the HR Committee, CAT or CED providing information about the implementation of the relevant treaty by the State Party under review
FOLLOW UP REPORT  A report to the HR Committee, CAT or CED providing information about the implementation of the recommendations issued by the relevant Treaty Body to the state
LIST OF ISSUES  A contribution to the list of questions drawn up by the experts of the HR Committee, CAT or CED for a State Party before its review