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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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The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) recently adopted Opinion No. 51/2015, which recognises the arbitrary character of the detentions of Salim Alaradi and four other Libyan citizens, and requests the Emirati authorities to release them immediately. Almost two months later, however, the five men remain detained.

Alkarama strongly condemns the hateful comments against supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood made on 27 January 2016 by the Egyptian Minister of Justice, Ahmed Al Zind, commenting on the recent attacks in the Sinaï during a live interview at prime-time on Sada Al Balad TV.

Hassan Bouras was released on 18 January 2016 after spending the last three months in pretrial detention in El Bayadh prison in Western Algeria. This 48-year-old journalist and human rights defender was arrested at his home in El Bayadh on 2 October. His release follows the decision of the investigating judge to refer his case to the Criminal Court of El Bayadh.

In its ruling issued on 16 December 2015, the Italian justice has, as expected, rejected the Algerian extradition request of Alkarama's Legal Director, Rachid Mesli. While noting that his activities as a human rights defender were "difficult to reconcile with those of a terrorist," the Court concluded that the Algerian accusations could as well be the result of "political persecution." As the Algerian government has not appealed this decision, Mesli is now free to travel in Italy.

On 16 December 2015, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (SR FRDX) David Kaye, supported by other UN experts, published a press release expressing his deep concern over the growing repression of freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia, ment

On 5 November 2015, members of the Security Forces stormed into the house of 31-year-old security manager Ali Issa Ali Al Tajer and arrested him without presenting a warrant, taking him to an unknown location, where he was detained incommunicado for 25 days. On 30 November, he was charged with terrorism based on confessions obtained under torture.

On 19 November 2015, Alkarama sent two communications, one to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (SRT) and one to the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances (WGEID), regarding the case of 20-year-old Egyptian student

Between 20 and 30 October 2015, Alkarama sent an urgent appeal the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) as well as two urgent appeals to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) regarding the cases of three Yemeni citizens unlawfully arrested by the Houthi-Saleh Coalition for criticising the group's policies.

At its last session, held from 27 July to 14 August 2015, the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) issued its findings on the complaint submitted by Alkarama relating to acts of torture inflicted on Hashem

On 5 October 2015, Alkarama sent an urgent appeal to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (HRD), Michel Forst, calling on him to intervene in the case of journalist and human rights defender, Hassan Bouras, arrested without judicial warrant in early October 2015 and currently detained in El Bayadh prison.