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Freedom of Expression

According to article 19 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), freedom of expression is the right of every individual to hold and express an opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Freedom of opinion and expression is essential in building a peaceful society in which all its segments are able to speak their minds and engage with each other’s ideas. However, in practice, and despite the hope for greater freedoms brought about by the Arab uprisings to open access to public spaces, the right to freedom of opinion and expression is still continuously violated by governmental censorship, restrictive legislations or policies limiting the media and silencing critical voices. Journalists, human rights defenders, minorities or voices otherwise critical of governments are recurrently victims of governmental crackdowns through judicial harassment, closure of newspapers or online blogs, arbitrary arrests and detention as punishment for peacefully expressing their views.

Alkarama therefore continues to document, including through submissions to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression (SR FRDX), cases of arbitrary arrests and detention for mere acts of free speech in the region.

On 12 April 2014, Jaber Al Amri was arrested by officers of Al Mabahith in both uniform and civilian clothing who did not present him with a warrant. After being detained for three months incommunicado and having been deprived of his fundamental rights for a year, Jaber Al Amri was sentenced in May 2015 to seven years in prison followed by a seven-year travel ban and a fine of 50000 Riyals for posting a video on Youtube in which he calls for the release of his brother from prison.

(14 February 2017) Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a prominent Sudanese human rights defender, has been unlawfully detained for over two months, held by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) at Khartoum’s Kober Prison without charge or access to legal representation, 39 human rights groups and activists said.

On 8 February 2017, Alkarama sent an urgent appeal to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) concerning the case of Yousri Kamal Mohamed Abdallah, a 30-year-old Egyptian activist who was arrested on 22 December 2016 by members of the National Security Forces. To date, and despite the numerous letters and requests introduced by his father to the authorities, the latter still refuse to disclose his fate and whereabouts.

On 24 January 2017, Alkarama solicited the Special Rapporteur on torture (SRT) on behalf of the Sudanese opposition activists Elwaleed Imam Taha and Elgassim Mohamed Sid-Ahmad, who are currently detained in Al Ha’ir Prison, Saudi Arabia, but fear imminent extradition to Sudan, where they are at high risk of being subjected to torture and prosecuted for making use of their fundamental right to freedom of expression.

On 18 December 2016, Saudi State Security Forces arrested Issa Al Nukheifi, a prominent Saudi human rights defender and lawyer, after he had been summoned for interrogations by the same authority. On 17 January 2017, Alkarama addressed an urgent appeal to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (SRHRD), Michel Forst, requesting him to call upon Saudi Arabia to immediately release Al Nukheifi.

On 5 January 2017, Ahmed Maher Ibrahim Tantawy, founder of the 6 April Youth Movement, was released after having served a three-year sentence. However, he remains under judicial supervision for three more years, a measure which entails that the activist must spend every night in police custody at his district police station from 6 pm to 6 am.

Alkarama is deeply concerned by the ongoing crackdown against peaceful opposition politicians and demonstrators in Khartoum, Sudan. This repression led to the arbitrary arrest and detention of dozens of political opponents by the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) in November 2016.

On 1 December 2016, Essa Al Hamid’s sentence was increased on appeal to 11 years in prison, a fine of 100.000 Riyals and a travel ban of 11 years for his peaceful human rights activism within the Saudi Civil and political Rights Association (ACPRA). Alkarama, concerned about the pattern of criminalisation of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, thus solicited the urgent intervention of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders (SR HRD), Michel Forst.

On 15 November 2016, the Egyptian Parliament proposed a flawed new draft NGO Law that replaces both the previous 2002 Law on Associations and the draft NGO Law that was presented by the government earlier this year.

On 17 November 2016, Alkarama wrote to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders (SR HRD) regarding the case of two Saudi activists, Mohamed Al Otaibi and Abdullah Al Atawi, who are currently put on trial before the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) due to their peaceful human rights activism. The next trial hearing is set for 26 December 2016.