FOCUS: UN Secretary General Presents Report on Reprisals against Those Who Cooperate with the UN to the Human Rights Council

On 17 September 2015, Secretary General (UNSG) Ban Ki-Moon presented his last report to the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) on cases of reprisals against persons who have cooperated with the UN human rights mechanisms, emphasising that "any act of intimidation or reprisal against individuals or groups [who cooperate with the UN], or anyone linked to them, is unacceptable." In May 2015, Alkarama had provided the Secretary General with information on reprisals against human rights defenders in the Arab world.

One of the cases raised by the UNSG was the case of Said Ali Said Jadad, a 46 year-old Omani human rights defender (HRD) who was a victim of several forms of reprisals. In September 2014, Jadad had met with the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights and freedom of peaceful assembly and association (SR FPAA), Maina Kiai, during his visit to Oman. Following this meeting, Jadad was subjected to a travel ban and had his passport confiscated. He was also victim of secret and incommunicado detention on several occasions, the latest on 21 January 2015.

Still regarding Oman, the UNSG mentioned that "the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association raised concerns at alleged acts of intimidation and reprisal against Mohammad al-Fazari, a human rights activist and blogger, also for having met with him during his country visit [to Oman]". Al-Fazari was arrested and detained incommunicado for five days in a secret place under the custody of the Internal Security Section of the Royal Omani Police only a week before the SR FPAA's visit to Oman.

As for Syria, the UNSG expressed concern over the case of Jadia Abdullah Nawfal and Omar Al Shaar, both Syrian HRDs who were subjected to reprisals for several years. In October 2014, Jadia and Omar were both arrested at the Lebanese border on their way back to Damascus, after attending a workshop organised by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Lebanon (OHCHR Lebanon). Following a joint urgent appeal by several UN mandate holders, both HRDs were released on 18 December 2014.

Lastly, the UNSG recalled the case of Emirati blogger Osama al-Najjar, submitted to the attention of the UNSG by Alkarama in 2014. Osama is the son of Hussain Al Najjar, who was arrested and detained together with 93 political opponents, lawyers and human rights defenders, for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the 'UAE 94' case. On 17 March 2014, after criticising the ruler of the Sharjah Emirate on Twitter and speaking up against the arbitrariness of his father's detention, Osama was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison after an unfair trial before the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi. His charges included "contacting foreign organisations and presenting inaccurate information," clearly referring to his cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms, including through his meeting with Gabriela Knaul, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of judges and lawyers (SR IJL), during her visit to the UAE between 28 January and 5 February 2014.

"Year after year, we continue to see Arab regimes severely repressing public freedoms defenders, only because they are feeling threatened by the legitimate demands of their citizens, demands that they do not want the UN mechanisms to be aware of," says Inès Osman, Coordinator of Alkarama's Legal Department. "Authoritarian governments especially use the pretext of the 'fight against terrorism' to suppress any criticism or peaceful demands for change, imprisoning, torturing and even killing human rights defenders." Alkarama therefore expresses its appreciation to all those who, often putting their lives and freedom in danger, continue to fight against violations of human rights in the Arab world.

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