Egyptian Rights Group Faults Regional Rights Situation

Arab countries not only fail to live up to their human rights obligations, but actively seek to undermine international mechanisms for rights protections, the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) charges in its new annual report (.pdf).

“Arab governments not only champion impunity for crimes; they actively seek out and punish those who strive for the establishment of a democratic government that guarantees accountability for all institutions and individuals. Thus, in many Arab countries people are not only victimized by the lack of justice, but also by the very act of seeking it,” Bahey eldin Hassan, CIHRS General Director said in the report’s introduction (.pdf).

The CIHRS is an independent non-governmental research center focused on examining the application of international human rights law, as well as the culture of human rights, in the Arab world.

Hardly any country, territory or political movement escaped criticism in the report, called “2009 Report on Human Rights in the Arab World: Bastion of Impunity, Mirage of Reform.”

Israel was condemned for its treatment of Palestinians, particularly the continued blockade of and the recent military incursion into the Gaza Strip. The CIHRS noted a recently issued report by a U.N. fact-finding mission which alleged “that Israel engaged in war crimes and possibly even crimes against humanity” during the Gaza war.

CIHRS also had harsh words for rival Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, for their treatment of each other’s supporters. “Both parties have committed grave abuses against their opponents, including arbitrary detention, lethal torture, and extrajudicial killings,” CIHRS says in the report.

The CIHRS report also condemns Tunisia, Morocco and Syria for attacks on political opposition and dissent. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are faulted for their intolerance towards freedom of religion and expression. Across the region human rights defenders faced harassment and detention, CIHRS says.

The report was widely met with resignation by media outlets across the region, with Egyptian online new service Bikya Masr calling the report’s findings unsurprising.