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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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The situation in Sudan's university campuses continues to be a cause of concern for Alkarama which documented together with the Arab Coalition for Sudan (ACS), new cases of human rights violations against students, in reprisal against their participations to peaceful demonstrations.
Alkarama is deeply concerned by the ongoing repression against students and political opposition activists in diverse universities campuses across Sudan. This crackdown led to the arrest of dozens of students and the killing of at least two others by National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) officers in April 2016.
Alkarama regrets that, despite several attempts to request the Emirati authorities to release him, Jordanian citizen Rami Shaher Abdel Jalil Al Mrayat is to serve his full sentence in the Al Wathba prison, in spite of the fact that he is being arbitrarily detained.
On April 9, 2016 the Hamad Town Police Station summoned 15 year old Bassel Abbas Ali Hassan Jayed for interrogation which lasted over five hours and during which he was subjected to electroshocks, beaten, kicked and slapped on the face and the head and forced to stand up in stress positions. Bassel was released on the morning of April 10 only to be called back a couple of hours later to undergo interrogation at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.
On 27 April 2016, Alkarama seized the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances (WGEID) and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture (UNSRT) to, once more, request their intervention with the Emirati authorities on the case of known activist
Jordanian journalist Taysir Hasan Mahmoud Salman was supposed to fly from the United Arab Emirates, where he currently lives, to Jordan on vacation on 3 December 2015; however, he was prevented from boarding his flight by the airport authorities.
Alkarama welcomes the release, on 24 April 2016, of 12-year-old Palestinian student Dima Al-Wawi, who was arrested on her way to school on 9 February 2016 and, on 18 February, was sentenced by the Israeli Ofer Court to four months in prison for “carrying a knife”, which according to the court, would have been used to kill Israeli settlers.
Alkarama welcomes the release, on 15 March 2016, of Mohamed Al-Ajami, a Qatari poet who had been sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for writing and reciting, in his home, a poem criticising Arab governments and praising the Tunisian revolution in 2010. Al-Ajami was arrested in 2011 and sentenced in 2013 to 15 years in prison for "inciting to overthrow the regime" and "insulting the Emir".
In March 2016, human rights defenders Imad Amara and Faisal Al Tamimi were arrested and tortured due to their work documenting cases of enforced disappearances in Iraq. Both men were volunteers at the human rights NGO Al Wissam Humanitarian Assembly, which documents cases of enforced disappearances and together with Alkarama, submits them to the United Nations Human Rights mechanisms.
In the early morning of 20 February 2016, about 12 members of the Intelligence Services of the Criminal Investigation Directorate in civilian clothes stormed the house of 17-year-old student Fadhel Abbas Ali Hassan Jayed. After searching his room, they arrested him and confiscated his phone. No warrant was shown and they did not provide any explanation for the arrest. Fadhel was then taken to the Criminal Investigation Directorate, where he was tortured with electric shocks, beaten, kicked and slapped on the face and head by masked men.