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Arbitrary Detention

International human rights instruments, in particular article 9 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) protect the right to personal liberty, meaning that no one shall be arbitrarily detained.

Detention, which, in itself, is not a violation of human rights and can be legitimate, becomes arbitrary when the deprivation of liberty is carried out in violation of fundamental rights and guarantees set forth in relevant international human rights instruments. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has defined several categories under which detention is arbitrary:

  • When it is impossible to invoke any  legal  basis for the deprivation of liberty (as when a person is kept in detention after the completion of his sentence or despite an amnesty law applicable to him/her);
  • When the deprivation of liberty results from the exercise of the rights or freedoms guaranteed by the UDHR and the ICCPR, such as the right to freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association;
  • When international norms relating to the right to a fair trial have been totally or partially violated, for example if the person has been imprisoned without charge or denied access to a lawyer;
  • When the deprivation of liberty is based on discriminatory grounds such as, amongst others, on ethnic origin, religion, political or other opinion or gender.

In the Arab world, thousands of individuals are subjected to arbitrary detention. Victims are usually denied their fundamental rights from the onset of the detention: arrest without a warrant; incommunicado detention with the denial of access to family and lawyer; prolonged periods of custody, during which the person is tortured in order to extract confessions; and speedy trials before tribunals that lack independence or exceptional courts.

Arab governments often arrest and prosecute all dissenting voices, such as those of human rights defenders, political opponents, journalists and peaceful demonstrators in retaliation for peacefully making use of their right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Simultaneously, thousands of ordinary citizens are also victims of arbitrary detention when they are denied their fair trial rights. 

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On 19 October 2016, a group of seven United Nations human rights experts* issued a press release to express their "serious concern" about the situation of activists from the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement Initiative (IRA Mauritania) "imprisoned for their alleged role in a demonstration against forced evictions in Nouachkott" and "targeted by the government for their anti-slavery advocacy".

Arbitrary detentions, secret trials and lengthy prison sentences are the shared fate of anyone who dares to speak up about Saudi Arabia's human rights record or demand basic freedoms from within the Kingdom. Alkarama sheds light on the institutionalised repression practiced by Saudi authorities and honours the fight for human rights led by one of the Kingdom's most prominent group of victims: ACPRA, the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association.

On 11 October 2016, Alkarama sent an urgent appeal to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) regarding the case of Mr Moustafa Abdelkhalek Al Darsi, a 48 year-old Libyan citizen who was arrested in the city of Zliten in January 2016 by members of the RADA forces; the main se

On 12 October 2016, which marks the 7th anniversary of the establishment of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), Alkarama will be launching an international 11-day advocacy campaign - including a letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as an indepth report as well as a

On 7 October 2016, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) published its Concluding Observations on the third and fourth periodic review of Saudi Arabia held during its 73rd sessionfrom 13 to 30 September

On 21 September 2016, the mother of Mohamad Al Jabouri, a 36-year-old construction worker, was able to visit him in Tasferat prison, Baghdad; after more than one year of his disappearance. He told her that during his secret detention, he was heavily tortured by Iraqi security officers and forced to sign a "confession" he was not allowed to read beforehand. This document was the sole source of evidence in his trial before the Central Criminal Court that sentenced him to death on 17 March for alleged "terrorist crimes".

On 22 September 2016, Alkarama submitted its report on Morocco’s human rights situation to the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in view of its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which will be held in May 2017. Despite the authorities’ tangible progress in the protection and promotion of human rights, some practices remain in violation of Morocco’s international obligations.

On 26 September 2016, Hatem Al Darawsheh, a 19-year-old Jordanian high school student, will face trial before the State Security Court for his alleged “support to a terrorist organisation”, based on statements extracted under torture during his interrogation by officers of the General Intelligence Directorate (GID).

On 9 August 2016, Yousuf Al Haj, a journalist at Al Zaman newspaper, was arrested by Omani State Security Forces and the journal closed down because of articles denouncing corruption within the judiciary. Since his arrest, Yousuf Al Haj is detained in solitary confinement and his conditions of detention have affected his health.

On 6 September 2016, Amjad Qourshah was released from Jweida prison after almost three months of detention without due process. Concerned over the fact that Qourshah was held in detention solely for having criticized Jordan's participation to the international coalition against the Islamic State (IS) lead by the USA.