Alkarama raises cases of reprisals in the Arab world with UN Secretary-General
On May 1, 2019, Alkarama submitted a report with several cases of reprisals in the Arab world to the UN Secretary-General (UNSG) in preparation for his annual report on reprisals against individuals who cooperate with the UN.
Across the Arab world, a number of individuals with whom Alkarama cooperates have continued to be subjected to acts of intimidation and reprisals, either as a result of their own activism, or the UN’s action on their behalf. Although Alkarama raised cases of reprisals in the UAE, Iraq and Morocco, these cases only represent the tip of the iceberg as many more have reported acts of retaliations but have wished to keep their testimonies confidential fearing further reprisals.
United Arab Emirates
Since 2013, the UAE have been mentioned in every annual report of the UNSG on reprisals. This year again, several individuals continued to be subjected to reprisals due to their engagement with the UN.
Mekkaoui, a Lebanese citizen, was sentenced by the UAE Federal Supreme Court on December 4, 2016 to 15 years in prison based on confessions extracted under torture. In 2017, the UN Working Group issued an Opinion recognising the arbitrary character of his detention.
On December 5, 2018, the Arabic television channel Al Arabi broadcasted a video segment on his case, detailing this prosecution in the UAE, the torture he has been subjected to as well as the Opinion that was issued on his case by the WGAD. The video also featured an interview with Mekkaoui’s sister and his Lebanese lawyer.
Consequently and as a further act of reprisals, Mekkaoui was moved to solitary confinement on December 17, 2018, and was put in a cell underground, without natural day light. Since then, he was only intermittently able to contact his family.
Moreover, in March 2019, the Public Prosecution initiated new legal proceedings against Mekkaoui, his sister, his nephew and his lawyer, accusing them of “misrepresentation and incitement against the UAE” based on the television interviews as well as a Facebook page managed by his nephew.
Mekkaoui’s health remains in a critical stage as he is still suffering the after-effects of the torture he had been subjected to, including severe back pains and infections in places where toes and fingernails were removed.
Despite the fact that the UNSG previously mentioned Az in his 2018 report, he has continued to be subjected to reprisals and continues to be detained despite the 2017 Opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention calling on his release.
In fact, although Az was previously allowed phone calls to his family on a monthly basis, the last time they have heard from him was on February 14, 2019. His family has expressed its deepest concern that this might constitute further acts of reprisals for his engagement with the UN mechanisms and expressed the fear that, while being denied access to his family, he might be subjected to acts of torture or other forms of ill-treatment.
Reprisals against renowned human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor were highlighted previously in the 2014, 2017, and 2018 reports of the UNSG. In March 2017, Mansoor was arrested, and, on May 29, 2018, he was sentenced to ten years in prison followed by three years’ surveillance upon his release, as well as a fine of one million Dirhams.
On December 31, 2018 Mansoor’s ten-year prison sentence was upheld on appeal on by the Federal Supreme Court. In March 2019, Ahmed Mansoor entered a hunger strike to protest his prison conditions and the unfair trial he was subjected to.
On October 2, 2018, and upon Alkarama’s request, Special Procedures mandate holders sent a communication to the Iraqi authorities regarding the cases of two human rights defenders, Imad Al Tamimi and Israa Al Dujaili.
On July 14, 2018, Imad Al Tamimi, a labourer who volunteers for the human rights NGO Al Wissam Humanitarian Assembly – which documents cases of enforced disappearances –, was abducted in Baghdad by members of the Special Weapons and Tactics Unit (SWAT). While detained in a secret facility, he was subjected to acts of torture for the first two weeks of his detention. Methods used included severe beatings all over the victim’s body and repeated electric shocks on his limbs.
Under duress, he was forced to sign a document stating that he would no longer participate in any event related to enforced disappearance in Iraq. He was released September 7, 2018.
As for Israa Al Dujaili, she was subjected to threats and intimidation on August 27, 2018 after she went to a print shop to collect posters advertising events organised by Al Wissam Humanitarian Assembly on the occasion of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on August 30. A group of men stopped her and interrogated her about the posters she was carrying. She was verbally assaulted and subjected to threats in relation to her participation in these events.
Such attacks and threats against members or associates of Al Wissam Humanitarian Assembly are not unprecedented, as illustrated by the case of Salam Al Hashimi, who was threatened by the security services and forced to flee the country in 2016 because of his work documenting cases to the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances.
Laroussi was arrested in 2003 and subjected to secret detention and torture. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison the same year after a summary and unfair trial on terrorism charges. In 2015, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an Opinion on his case, calling upon his immediate release.
Following the adoption of the WGAD Opinion, Laroussi was subjected to various forms of reprisals. While he was in detention in Tangiers, where his family lives, he was transferred to a prison in Fes, 300 km away from his family. He was also detained in solitary confinement and prevented from continuing his legal studies.
On April 8, 2019, Laroussi started a hunger strike to protest against the lack of implementation of the WGAD Opinion by the Moroccan authorities. As a result, he was put in a solitary confinement cell deprived of light for eight days.
On 16 April, the National Human Rights Council sent a delegation to meet with Laroussi: they told him that if he stopped his hunger strike, they would then help him claim his rights. However, on April 30, Laroussi was transferred to the prison of Meknes Toulal II without previous notice. He has been since detained in solitary confinement. His calls to his family have been restricted to five minutes per week. Visits are also restricted as conversations with his relatives happen behind a wall and for 15 minutes only, not allowing for any form of confidentiality.
Although the UNSG had already voiced concerns on his case in 2013 and 2014, for the past year, Ali Aarrass has been subjected to further reprisals while being detained at the Salé II prison, and continues to be held in solitary confinement since October 2016.
In December 2018, Mr Aarrass was subjected to severe acts of ill-treatment, while the prison director was on leave. Two prison officials took him by force, undressed him while spitting on him and telling him that they were going to rape him. They also insulted him and his family.
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