GCHR Annual Report Highlights Growing Dangers for Human Rights Defenders


Today, 08 February 2015, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) published its third annual report “Hear their Voices: Alarming Times for Human Rights Defenders in the Gulf Region & Neighbouring Countries”.

The report highlights the work of the GCHR throughout 2014 and the main dangers facing human rights defenders working in the Gulf region, including neighbouring countries. They are targeted, harassed, arrested, detained, imprisoned and ill-treated as a direct result of their human rights work. They are at risk from government and opposition forces alike, particularly in countries in conflict like Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Many remain in detention where they are subjected to torture and appalling conditions, including GCHR founder Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja.

“These days, we can only dream that no more human rights defenders will be jailed in the region. Too many of them are already languishing in prison with long prison sentences like Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja in Bahrain, or Raif Badawi and Walid Abu Al-Khair in Saudi Arabia, or the many other prisoners of conscious in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Syria,” said Khalid Ibrahim, GCHR Director of Programmes.

The right to freedom of expression is being increasingly targeted, as 2014 saw the killing of journalists, the arrest and detention of on-line activists and bloggers as well as an increase in the use of legislation, including new anti-terror laws or cyber-crime laws, by governments as a means of restricting the work of human rights defenders.

“An alarming development in the region includes increased cooperation between Gulf countries so that Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries can arrest any Gulf national facing charges,” notes GCHR Director of Advocacy Maryam Al-Khawaja, who was jailed for over two weeks in September when she arrived in Bahrain to visit her father. She has been sentenced to a year in prison for allegedly assaulting a policewoman in the airport, leaving her vulnerable to arrest should she return to any GCC country.

In 2014, the GCHR issued 138 appeals relating to more than 200 human rights defenders in the ten countries in which it works, the six GCC member states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), as well as Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Syria. As well, the human rights NGO provided direct support to human rights defenders, including grants to 21 human rights defenders, and training for over 120 human rights defenders.

The report highlights the need for the international community to work together to call for the promotion and protection of human rights and human rights activists in the Gulf region. The full report is available here:


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