Alkarama launches its 2016 Annual Report.

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Our History

2004: Creation of Alkarama in Geneva

Alkarama was created as a Swiss association in July 2004 by Qatari and Algerian human rights defenders – Adulrahman Al Nuaimi, Rachid Mesli and Abbas Aroua – with the vision of an Arab World where all individuals would live free, in dignity, and protected by the rule of law. With this goal in mind, the founders decided to address the most serious violations of human dignity, physical integrity and freedom, namely extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention, with the hope that individuals, who no longer fear being subjected to these violations, can speak and act freely to call for their rights and ensure the rule of law in their countries.

At the time of Alkarama's creation, the United Nations (UN) mechanisms established to protect human rights worldwide rarely acted upon violations in the Arab region. Identifying this gap, Alkarama decided that in order to end these violations, it would act through the UN human rights mechanisms specifically. In doing so, Alkarama would also fulfil its objectives to contribute to a better understanding of human rights and to raise awareness of the UN's human rights protection mechanisms in Arab civil society, including amongst social groups who often view these instruments as ineffective or understand rights as “Western concepts”.

It was thus decided that Alkarama’s role would be to act as a bridge between the victims in the Arab world and UN experts, whilst building the capacity of local activists to directly access UN mechanisms and use the decisions they adopt to call for the respect of human rights in their countries. This work involves speaking directly and regularly with victims and their families, lawyers or members of civil society to document individual cases of human rights violations; and submitting these to the UN mechanisms so that they request the relevant government authorities to remedy the situation.

Between 2004 and 2007, Rachid Mesli, at the time Alkarama's sole employee in Geneva, submitted around 400 individual cases to the UN Special Procedures, prompting them to engage with a number of Arab States, which led to a noticeable improvement of the situation for many of the victims.

2005: Recruitment of Country Representatives in Lebanon and Yemen and launch of Alkarama’s website

Following up on its success and growing needs, in 2005 Alkarama recruited Country Representatives in Lebanon and Yemen in order to follow the human rights situation in these countries and document further cases of violations to submit to the UN. Alkarama's website was launched the same year.

2007: Establishment of the Alkarama Foundation and work with UN Treaty Bodies

In April 2007, Alkarama registered as a Foundation under Swiss law, placing the organisation under the control of the Swiss Federal Supervisory Board for Foundations. This change in status aimed to ensure greater stability and transparency, by enabling the Swiss authorities to review the organisation's financial records on a yearly basis.

As of 2007, Alkarama began working with the UN Treaty Bodies – in particular the Committee Against Torture (CAT), the Human Rights Committee (HRCttee) and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) instituted by the newly established Human Rights Council (HRC) – by submitting alternative reports on the Arab States' effective implementation of the ratified treaties.

2009: Launch of the Alkarama Award, opening of the Cairo Office and commencement of our work to strengthen National Human Rights Institutions

In 2009, noting that, in the Arab world, national human rights institutions (NHRIs), which should act freely without any ties to the government, often lack independence, Alkarama started working with civil society to provide information to the International Coordinating Committee on NHRIs before the review of the NHRIs’ compliance with the Paris Principles.

That year, we also launched the “Alkarama Award for Human Rights Defenders”, a prize attributed every year to an individual or organisation that has significantly contributed to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Arab world. Through this award, Alkarama was able to fulfil two objectives: to bring attention to the work of Human Rights Defenders in the Arab world, whilst providing the UN, NGOs, the media and the general public with an opportunity to learn about the individual heroes struggling for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Arab region.

In 2009, the Foundation opened an office in Cairo, after the recruitment of a Country Representative.

2011: During the "Arab Spring" and after Documenting first-hand human rights violations

As the events of 2011 began to unfold in the Arab World, Alkarama stood alongside those calling for the respect of their rights and became a major relay of information for the UN mechanisms and the media on the uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and then Syria. With Country Representatives present in Egypt, Lebanon and Yemen, as well as several visits to Libya, Alkarama was able to closely monitor the violations occurring and report them in real time.

2015: Closure of Alkarama’s Yemen Office

In 2015, Alkarama closed its office in Sana’a, due to a deterioration of the security situation, after the Houthis took over the capital. Human rights defenders were also increasingly at risk of reprisals for their work documenting human rights violations.

2011-2015: Reprisals against Alkarama

2011: Harassment of Alkarama's Lebanon Country Representative

On 25 July 2011, Alkarama’s representative in Lebanon, Saadeddine Shatila, was summoned for questioning by the Lebanese Military Intelligence in Beirut, and released seven hours later. The following day, the military prosecutor accused him of having “published information harmful to the reputation of the Lebanese Military” and referred him to a military investigative judge, a clear reprisal for his work documenting cases of human rights violations in to the UN human rights mechanisms.

It is only in mid-February 2012 that the Military Court investigative judge issued a decision closing the investigation against Mr Shatila, a decision which was later confirmed by the Government Commissioner to the Military Court. This followed a campaign by NGOs as well as an urgent appeal sent to the Lebanese authorities by the UN Special Procedures and a letter denouncing these reprisals by the UN Committee against Torture.

2012: Arrest and detention of Alkarama’s Executive Director in Paris

On 16 January 2012, Alkarama's Executive Director, Dr Mourad Dhina was arrested at Paris-Orly airport by the French police, responding to an international arrested warrant issued by the Algerian authorities in 2003, which claims that he “belonged to an armed terrorist group active in Zurich and in Switzerland” during the late 90s. For years, Dr Dhina had openly called for democratic change in Algeria: he co-founded Rachad, a peaceful opposition group promoting the establishment of the rule of law, the respect of civil and political rights and good governance in Algeria.

On 10 February 2012, three UN Special Rapporteurs sent an urgent appeal to the French Government, expressing grave concerns over the risk that he may be extradited to Algeria due to his political activism and his activities related to the defence of human rights at the Alkarama Foundation.

On 4 July 2012, Dr Dhina was released from the “Prison de la Santé” in Paris following a ruling by a French Court, affirming that the documents provided by the Algerian authorities were incoherent and lacking any evidence, so that that the French Prosecutor qualified them as “grotesque”.

September 2013: Closure of Alkarama’s office in Egypt and reprisals against Country Representative

Following reprisals and the general crackdown on civil society organisations in the country after the military takeover in July 2013, Alkarama, like most foreign organisations, was forced to close its Egypt country office.

On 1 September 2013, an arrest warrant was issued against Ahmed Mefreh, Alkarma’s Egypt representative, who had been instrumental in gathering information about numerous human rights violations in Egypt for submission to the UN human rights mechanisms. The warrant, which accused him of “being a member of an armed organisation” identified Mr Mefreh as working for Alkarama, and was therefore clearly issued as a reprisal for his work as a human rights defender.

On 16 September, an urgent appeal was sent to the Egyptian authorities by the UN Special Procedures, expressing serious concerns over the issuance of an arrest warrant as a result of Mr Mefreh peaceful and legitimate work defending human rights. However, the Egyptian authorities never responded to these allegations.

December 2013: Listing of Alkarama's co-founder by the US Treasury Department

On 18 December 2013, the US Department of the Treasury named Dr Al Nuaimi, one of Alkarama’s founders, human rights activist and former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, as “Specially Designated Global Terrorist”.

The US Treasury did not submit any evidence or proof of its allegations against Dr Al Nuaimi, who denied all charges, and officially notified the American authorities in an affidavit of his willingness to appear before a court to establish the falsity of the charges.

Following his listing, some officials and the media spread rumours about Alkarama claiming that the organisation was targeted by the US decision, attempting to discredit its work and that of its Arab and international partners, as denounced by the Council of the Foundation. Alkarama’s Executive Director Mourad Dhina commented on this situation in an article, “The Arab world needs bridge building, not terrorist listing”, arguing that the US decision was certainly not the way to go for advancing democracy and human rights in the region.

In March 2014, the Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, David Cohen, delivered a speech before the Centre for a New American Security on “Confronting New Threats in Terrorist Financing” in which he urged to “Alkarama and other organizations that have a relationship, directly or indirectly, with Nu’aymi to distance themselves from this disgraced terrorist financier”, stating that “[b]enign neglect cannot provide cover for those advocating for human rights while underwriting terror.” Since, Alkarama sought clarification with the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which officially confirmed in a letter that Alkarama “has never been sanctioned by OFAC” but that the designation of Dr Nuaimi concerned him in his private capacity.

The US designation was largely reported in the press. Below are some of articles related to the subject: we obviously do not necessarily agree with some of the analyses.

Financial Times, US sanctions prominent rights activist for alleged al-Qaeda links, 20.12.2013

Le Temps, Questions sur une ONG genevoise, 21.12.2013

The Washington Post, Islamic charity officials gave millions to al-Qaeda, U.S. says, 23.12.2013

Reuters, Qatar rights advocate hit by U.S. sanctions denies al Qaeda ties, 23.12.2013

AFP, Qatar activist rejects US ‘Qaeda’ funding charges, 24.12.2013

Washington Times, Group run by al Qaeda terrorist invited to brief Dems on drone policy, 06.01.2014

New York Times, Club Med for Terrorists, 24.08.2014

In Arabic:

 

موقع 24 الإلكتروني ـ منظمة الكر امة ولا كرامة 22.12.2013 -

إيلاف ـ منظمة إرهابية... تمارس حقوق الإنسان! 22.12.2013 -

البيان الإماراتية ـ إرهابيون من أجل حقوق الإنسان! 21.12.2013 -

صحيفة العرب اللندنية ـ هل بدأت الولايات المتحدة تقليم أظافر قطر وصلاتها بالقاعدة  20.12.2013 -

الوطن المصرية-  الوطن» تكشف: 9 منظمات حقوقية «شركاء» فى مؤسسة سويسرية يديرها قطرى لتمويل «القاعدة05.01.2014 -

بوابة الشرق-  الناشط القطري "بن عمير" ينفي صلته بتمويل "القاعدة"  23.12.2013 -

الإمارات اليوم-  واشنطن تدرج النعيمي والحميقاني في لائحة داعمي الإرهاب20.12.2013 -

الأهرام المصرية-  النعيمي وقطر وورقة التوت 23.12.2013 -

September 2014: Smear campaign against Alkarama

On 2 September 2014, the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir published an article (in Arabic) accusing Alkarama of “supporting terrorism and spreading anarchy”, after which, on 15 September, Alkarama published a right of reply (in English). Likewise, in October 2014, a Swiss newspaper, Le Temps, published an article (in French) accusing the City of Geneva of financing an NGO suspected of having ties with Al Qaida. Alkarama published a right of reply (in French) as well as an Op Ed in the newspaper Le Temps. The Op Ed explains the challenges defending human rights in the Arab World, in particular the accusations of “terrorism” often used by authoritarian regimes to shut down any peaceful criticism.

November 2014: Listing of “Alkarama Organisation” by the United Arab Emirates

On 15 November 2014, the Emirates News Agency reported that: “The UAE Cabinet has approved a list of designated terrorist organisations and groups in implementation of Federal Law No. 7 for 2014 on combating terrorist crimes”, among which the “Alkarama organisation”.

Several media outlets reported that this was targeting the Alkarama Foundation; however, our foundation was never notified of such a designation and did not receive any response when seeking clarification from the UAE. The Alkarama Foundation therefore does not consider itself concerned by the listing.

2015: Arrest of Alkarama’s Legal Director in Italy  

On 15 November 2014, the Emirates News Agency reported that: “The UAE Cabinet has approved a list of designated terrorist organisations and groups in implementation of Federal Law No. 7 for 2014 on combating terrorist crimes”, among which the “Alkarama organisation”.

Several media outlets reported that this was targeting the Alkarama Foundation; however, our foundation was never notified of such a designation and did not receive any response when seeking clarification from the UAE. The Alkarama Foundation therefore does not consider itself concerned by the listing.