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Independence of Justice

Independence is a fundamental tenet for an effective administration of justice. None-interference from the executive has to be granted in order to ensure equal access to fundamental guarantees for all. The absence of interference and pressure of any kind ensures that courts and judges decide cases impartially and in accordance with the law, so that citizens have confidence that they will not be victims of abuse. Therefore, having an independent judiciary is crucial to the effectiveness of the rule of law. Recognising its fundamental importance, the United Nations, in 1985, adopted the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.

A truly independent judiciary system is essential for the protection of human rights, because it protects citizens from unlawful acts of the government, ensures that perpetrators are brought to justice to receive a fair trial and that victims obtain effective remedies.

Issues affecting the independence of the judiciary in Arab countries range from an increased use of exceptional “State Security” courts composed of judges selected by the executive, to the prosecution of acts of peaceful dissent as well as trials of civilians by military courts. Moreover, governments frequently harass or punish judges and/or lawyers, who carry out their work with independence and try to protect fair trial rights of citizens.

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.

On 5 and 6 December 2016, five young men from the town of Bani Jamrah in north-western Bahrain were arrested from their homes by masked men in civilian clothing between 2 and 6 am. The men, including two minors, were repeatedly beaten all over their body, shackled and forced to stand up for two whole days before being forced to confess to the charge of “participating in demonstrations”.

On 17 December 2015, Qatari citizen Mohammad Meshab was arrested by the state security forces without a warrant and detained in prolonged solitary confinement until August 2016. Currently on trial, hearings are not being held in public and the principle of presumption of innocence has been violated.

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.

On 18 September 2016, the Emirati President issued Decree Law No. 7 of 2016 amending the UAE Penal Code (PC). The decree, which amends 132 existing articles and adds 34 new articles to the PC, endangers basic rights including the right to life and the right to freedom of opinion and expression as well as the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

The right to life

Ten years ago, on 1 November 2006, Jordan enacted the "Prevention of Terrorism Act", in response to the 2005 hotel bombings in Amman that left 60 people dead. In 2014, faced with threats stemming from the spillover of the Syrian war, the law was amended and broadened to include nonviolent acts, in an attempt to legitimise the government's crackdown on peaceful expression and assembly. Journalists, political opponents, freedom of expression advocates and human rights defenders have since been put to trial under the pretext of "terrorism".

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 11 August 2016, Alkarama together with nine Lebanese human rights organisations sent a letter to the Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil, to call upon him to accept the request made by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (SR IJL) Mónica Pinto to visit Lebanon in 2016.

On 26 September 2013, Mohamad Az, a Syrian national and a long-time resident of the United Arab Emirates was arrested while driving with his mother from Al Dhaid to Dubai by officers dressed in civilian clothes, who drove him blindfolded to his house and searched it without a warrant. Az was then detained in secret detention for four months during which time he was coerced into confessing his support to Ahrar Al Sham. Az had been commenting developments in his hometown in Syria since the beginning of the conflict.

Known for criticising Oman's systematic repression of peaceful dissent, Said Ali Said Jadad, who has been the victim of reprisals for his human rights activism since 2013, was sentenced, on 8 March 2015, to three years imprisonment for "undermining the prestige of the state" and one year for "incitement to demonstrate" and "disturbing public order" by the Muscat Court.