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Terrorism / counter-terrorism

Terrorism constitutes a major threat to the security of civilians in the Arab world with non-state armed groups resorting to indiscriminate violence to spread terror amongst the population, for political aims. While this is necessary to protect their citizens, international law imposes a duty on States to ensure that their antiterrorism measures respect human rights and the rule of law. However, Arab states have adopted extremely repressive counter-terrorism policies, which severely restrict and violate a wide range of fundamental human rights.

There are two patterns of human rights violations in counter-terrorism in the region: the first is the violation of fundamental guarantees of individuals arrested for crimes of terrorism including denial of legal counsel, secret detention as well as torture and death sentences following unfair trials; the second pattern is the inclusion in purposely vague and large legal definitions of terrorism acts, which are peacefully criticising abuses committed by States, or peaceful political opposition. Victims of such abuses are mostly lawyers, journalists, human rights defenders and peaceful political opponent, whose peaceful and legitimate criticism is being considered as a threat to the State and as an act of “terrorism”.

Given the increase of such violations in the context of counter-terrorism, the UN Commission on Human Rights created the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (SRCT), to which, amongst others, Alkarama continues to send individual cases of human rights abuses in counter-terrorism in Arab states.

On 3 February 2017, Alkarama raised the case of 15 women and children, who, on 29 January 2017, were killed in a military operation in the Al Bayda Governorate in Yemen by American and Emirati military forces, with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (SRSUMX), Dr Agnes Callamard.

On 20 December 2016, Alkarama sent an urgent appeal to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) concerning the case of Mohamed Saad Zekillah, a young student who was arrested on 9 November 2016 by the Homeland Security Forces. He was secretly detained for 17 days, during which he was repeatedly tortured. He reappeared on 23 November 2016, when he was brought before the Public Prosecutor of Alexandria and charged with “belonging to a terrorist group”.

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

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has recently released its Opinion on the case of Adam Al Natour, a 21-year-old Polish and Jordanian student who was sentenced to four years of imprisonment by the State Security Court after a flawed trial during which confessions he was forced to sign under torture were used against him.

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 25 October 2016, Walid Diab, a 18-year-old Lebanese citizen from Tripoli, was released from the juvenile section of Roumieh prison where he was detained, following a release order issued the same day by the Juvenile Court in Tripoli.

On 19 October 2016, the Speaker of Kuwait's National Assembly, Marzouq Al-Ghanim, disclosed information according to which the Emir of Kuwait agreed to put Law No. 78/2015 on compulsory DNA collection, in line with the Kuwaiti Constitution in order to respect the right to privacy. The Emir requested the Parliament to reconsider the scope of the law with the view of imposing compulsory DNA collection to criminal suspects only, instead of all Kuwaiti citizens and residents as it was initially envisioned.

On 29 June 2016, Abdulmalik Mohammad Yousef Abdelsalam, 26-year-old Jordanian university student, was released from the premises of the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) in Amman after having been secretly detained for four months, his family being kept unaware of his fate and whereabouts.

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.
 

Between July and September 2014, Mohammad Al Janabi, Imad Al Janabi and Hisham Al Masari were in their respective houses in Latifiya and Mahmoudiyah when officers of the 17th Division of the Iraqi army, a key force in the fight against the Islamic State (IS), broke in and arrested them. The day of their arrest was the last time their relatives could see them, as they remain disappeared up until today.