Solidarity with Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa

Tuesday, July 04, 2017
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IFEX members gather for the IFEX25 Strategy Conference & General Meeting in Montreal, Canada, from 12 to 16 June 2017.

NGOs around the world ask authorities to stop campaigns of repression against HRDs and civil society organisations in the Middle East and North Africa region

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) joins human rights defenders in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), along with other colleagues who gathered at the IFEX25 Strategy Conference & General Meeting in Montreal, Canada, from 12 to 16 June 2017, to declare our full solidarity with human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in various countries of the MENA region detained for their peaceful and legitimate activities defending and promoting freedom of expression, and to call for their immediate release. 

We express our deep concern about the authorities' use of travel bans and arbitrary detention as tools for reprisals against the reliable work of our colleagues in the region, including: 

Gamal Eid, director of IFEX member the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), prevented from attending the IFEX25 with his colleagues in Montreal by a travel ban in place since February 2016 due to his work on freedom of expression and other human rights in Egypt; 

Mohammed Zaree, director of the Cairo office of IFEX member the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), prevented from attending the IFEX25 with his colleagues in Montreal by a travel ban in place since June 2016 due to his work on freedom of expression and other human rights in Egypt; 

Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, co-founders of both IFEX members Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Center for Human Rights(GCHR), prevented from attending the IFEX25 with their colleagues in Montreal as they remain detained as prisoners of conscience in Bahrain due to exercising their right to freedom of expression in their work on defending human rights; 

Nedal Al-Salman, Head of International Relations for IFEX member BCHR, and IFEX Council member, prevented from attending the IFEX25 with her colleagues in Montreal by a travel ban in place due to exercising her right to freedom of expression in Bahrain as well as international spaces, including the UN Human Rights Council; and 

Ahmed Mansoor, member of the GCHR advisory board, prevented from attending the IFEX25 with his colleagues in Montreal as he remains arbitrarily detained in the UAE since 20 March 2017 on charges that violate his right to freedom of expression.

We believe that the only objective of these arbitrary actions is to isolate civil society organisations and their members from communicating with their peers and international mechanisms in order to cover up the massive violations of civil and human rights by the authorities. 

It was noted during IFEX25 that the close relationship between the governments of the MENA region and the UK and the US has led to the emboldening of security services in the region who continue to carry out gross violations of human rights around the clock without consequence. While we hold the governments of the region responsible for the deterioration of the human rights situation in the region, we call on international mechanisms, especially the United Nations, the EU and governments that have influence in our region to place human rights first in their diplomatic relationships and foreign policy. They must also protect and support human rights defenders as they carry out their important work aimed at building free, independent and prosperous societies dominated by social justice where there is no place for repression, discrimination and withholding of public freedoms. 

The undersigned members of IFEX urge the governments of the region to

1. Immediately and unconditionally release IFEX members Nabeel RajabAbdulhadi Al-KhawajaAhmed Mansoor, and all other prisoners of conscience; 

2. Abolish the travel ban imposed on our colleagues Gamal EidMohammed Zaree, and Nedal Al-Salman, and stop retaliation against all human rights advocates for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly; 

3. Ensure the physical and psychological integrity and security of all detained human rights defenders and grant them their legitimate and unrestricted right to meet with their families and lawyers; and 

4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the region are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment. 

Signed,

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Gulf Centre for Human Rights
Vigilance pour la Démocratie et l’État Civique 
7amleh - Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media 
ActiveWatch – Media Monitoring Agency
Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Africa Freedom of Information Centre
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
ARTICLE 19
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Cambodian Centre for Independent Media
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Cartoonists Rights Network International
Child Rights International Network 
Committee to Protect Journalists
Derechos Digitales
Digital Rights Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Foro de Periodismo Argentino
Foundation for Press Freedom - FLIP
Freedom Forum
Global Voices Advox
Globe International Center
I'lam Arab Center for Media Freedom Development and Research
Index on Censorship
Institute of Mass Information
Journaliste en danger
Maharat Foundation
MARCH
Mediacentar Sarajevo 
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Institute of Southern Africa 
Media Watch
National Union of Somali Journalists
Norwegian PEN
Pacific Islands News Association 
Pakistan Press Foundation
PEN American Center
PEN Canada
Social Media Exchange - SMEX
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
South East European Network for Professionalization of Media
Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters - AMARC

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