Who we are
Alkarama is a Geneva-based, independent human rights organisation established in 2004 to assist all those in the Arab World subjected to or at risk of extra-judicial executions, disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention. Acting as a bridge between individual victims in the Arab World and international human rights mechanisms, Alkarama works towards an Arab world where all individuals live free, in dignity and protected by the rule of law. In Arabic, Alkarama means "dignity".
Alkarama is an NGO defending the victims of human rights violations in the Arab world – including violations of the right to life, to physical and mental integrity and to Civil and Political Rights – by using in priority international law mechanisms. Alkarama also helps to promote a culture of human rights in the Arab world.
Recognising the indivisibility of human rights, Alkarama has nevertheless given priority to the defence of people subjected or at risk of summary execution, enforced disappearance, torture and arbitrary detention as Alkarama regards these violations of the right to life, physical integrity and civil and political rights as very serious violations that are unfortunately still too common in this region.
To end these violations, Alkarama cooperates with local and national civil society actors, international organisations for the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as governments and other entities likely to can act on the human rights situation.
By engaging international mechanisms, we offer support and a last resort to the victims of these human rights violations, so that they achieve respect for their rights against the failure or inefficiency of their country's justice system.
We are also working for a strong international system of human rights protection, which reinforces the regional, national and local protection systems. In, particular, we contribute to fill the information gaps, and to increase the attention of international human rights protection mechanisms on human rights violations taking place in the Arab World. Alkarama encourages States to strengthen their national laws to defend and promote human rights.
Finally, Alkarama contributes to the promotion of the "culture" of human rights, by ensuring that the various groups that make up the civil society in these countries are familiar with the concept of human rights and are mobilising around it, know their rights and claim them, and feel protected by law.
Through our projects, we provide these actors the necessary tools so that they can assert their rights both nationally and internationally.
- Document and denounce human rights violations in the Arab world;
- Provide moral and judicial assistance to the victims of human rights violations;
- Pursue the perpetrators of human rights violations and fight impunity;
- Encourage and campaign for governments to respect human rights;
- Spread the culture of human rights in Arab societies;
- Train human rights defenders;
- Support any initiative which reinforces the protection of citizens against human rights violations;
- Make Alkarama a credible and effective organisation.
Alkarama addresses the most serious human rights violations, i.e. violations which relate to the right to life, human dignity, physical integrity and freedom. The idea behind Alkarama's specific mandate is that only when citizens are free from the most serious human rights abuses that individuals can freely and effectively call for all of their rights and ensure the rule of law in their countries.
According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),
"Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life."(ICCPR, 1966)
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions intervenes on cases of executions outside the legal framework or without the proper legal safeguards: capital punishment following an unfair trial, deaths in custody, deaths due to excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, deaths due to attacks by States' security forces, violations of the right to life in armed conflict, genocide, and the imminent expulsion of persons to a country where their lives are in danger.
According to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (CED),
"'Enforced disappearance' is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law." (CED, 2006)
A tool of repression
Many of the governments of the Arab world use disappearances to silence opposition members and terrorise the population.
Algeria is a notable example of this practice. Alkarama has presented over 1,000 cases of disappearances to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID). The number of disappeared in Algeria is estimated at between 10,000 and 20,000 – the Algerian government admitted to 6,164 in 2005; the Algerian national human rights institution, the Commission Nationale Consultative de Promotion et de Protection des Droits de l'Homme (CNCPPDH) to 8,023.
According to the Convention against Torture (CAT),
"'Torture' means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions." (CAT, 1984)
Upon receipt of information about cases of torture from our offices and contacts in the Arab world, Alkarama writes a communication to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture (SRT) with details of the case.
According to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD)
"Deprivation of liberty is arbitrary if the case falls into one of the following three categories:
- When it is clearly impossible to invoke any legal basis justifying the deprivation of liberty [...] (Category I);
- When the deprivation of liberty results from the exercise of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, insofar as States parties are concerned, by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Category II);
- When the total or partial non-observance of the international norms relating to the right to a fair trial spelled out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the relevant international instruments accepted by the States concerned, is of such gravity as to give the deprivation of liberty an arbitrary character (Category III)." (WGAD, Fact Sheet No. 26)
Arbitrary Detention in the Arab World: the United Nation's Opinion
In the past four years, Alkarama has submitted over 500 cases of individuals detained arbitrarily to the WGAD, which issues decisions on cases received. So far, it issued 199 decisions on cases submitted by Alkarama, all of which confirming that the detention was arbitrary.
Arab governments often arrest and detain political opponents and human rights defenders in order to quiet their criticism of government policies and behaviour. The opinions issued by the WGAD can then be used in local and international advocacy against these detentions, be brought up with the governments and authorities directly, and can lead to enough pressure to have these individuals released in some cases. Many governments are very sensitive to their international image and human rights record.
"An Arab world where all people live in dignity, free and protected by the rule of law"
Our vision is of an Arab world where everyone can demand respect for all rights, without fearing for his life, liberty or physical integrity. A world where the rights of all people living under the jurisdiction of a State are effectively protected by law and where leaders are accountable to their people, respect domestic laws and ratified international human rights treaties.
By "Arab World", we refer to a geopolitical entity, namely the Arab League's Members States. With this qualification, Alkarama recognises and respects the diversity of these countries' societies, be it ethnic, cultural or religious.
In our conception, "to live in dignity" means that every human being deserves unconditional respect, inherent to the human condition in the spirit of Article I of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."
By "free and protected", we hold that all individuals should have the right to enjoy the fundamental freedoms outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedoms which should be guaranteed by law and protected by the country's leaders.
Finally, the "rule of law" refers to a power structure characterised by a government freely elected by its citizens, the principles of separation of the executive, legislative and judicial powers and of equality of all before the law, and where leaders are accountable to their people of the responsibilities vested in them. This power structure must also ensure compliance with domestic laws by ensuring their compatibility with the country's international obligations, including in the implementation of human rights.
Dignity: Respect is owed to every human being (simply because he is human).
- Dignity with which we treat the victims of violations that appeal to us, striving to ensure the best conditions for processing of their cases (to act quickly, to listen, be compassionate, etc.).
- Dignity in the treatment of our employees, ensuring them working conditions as good as they possibly can be, and involving them as much as possible in matters concerning the Foundation.
- Dignity in how we address our interlocutors: even those who have committed crimes or violated the rights of another are entitled to respect for their dignity.
Independence: Faculty to act freely, without constraint or injunction from a political or ideological entity whatsoever. The refusal of any external directive, wherever they come from, if they are in contradiction with the universal principles of human rights or the missions and values of the Foundation.
- The Foundation's action plan does not obey to political, ideological or financial pressures. The Management designs it after an effective and detailed consultation with the Staff and Advisory Committee, and on the basis of an objective study of the realities and human rights issues in the countries. The strategy is implemented after approval by the Council.
- The Foundation refuses any financing with conditions that go against our values or the interests of the victims, or which come from governments or entities that commit serious human rights violations, or which are directly or indirectly involved in conflicts in the region.
- Interaction with all the parties, without exception, which make up civil society.
Non-discrimination: Equal treatment and consideration of people, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, and religious, political or ideological beliefs.
- Equal treatment for all victims of violations who appeal to us, to the extent that these violations fall within our mandate, without further consideration.
- Refusing all discrimination in the management of our human resources.
Integrity: Staying true to our principles and values, and being professional.
- To act in the interests of the organisation and of the victims of violations.
- To act professionally every day, in applying clearly established principles of good governance.
- Report on our work
Justice: Ensuring the rights and duties of everyone equally.
- We demand the application of the law equally to all, in a transparent and egalitarian manner.
- We support the establishment of the rule of law with an independent judiciary.
Nonviolence: A strategy to fight injustices that rejects the use of violence.
- Having chosen the Law to fight injustices, we never advocate the use of violent action.
- As part of our mission, we may defend the rights of people who have committed acts of violence. In any case, this should not be interpreted as support or legitimisation of such acts, or adherence to the political or ideological orientations of the victims of violations that we defend.