The establishment of an Arab Court of Human Rights must be consistent with universal standards

Press release
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While the Arab League Summit opening today in Doha, Qatar, seems to focus mainly on the situation in Syria and on the Israelo-Palestinian conflict, it will also decide on the establishment of an Arab Court for Human Rights as proposed by the Kingdom of Bahraïn. On this occasion, FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights urges the League of Arab States (LAS) to first enhance its human rights regional system to make it consistent with universal standards.

Eliminating the consistency gap with international standards is the only way toward an effective protection system in the Arab region", said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President. "Only with such concrete and urgent reforms will the Arab League confront its credibility challenge and increase its ability to realy meet peoples’ demands and needs. Any project escaping conformity with universal standards would lose sense she added.

During a regional conference it organized in Cairo in February 2013 [1] , together with the Arab Orgnization for Human Rights, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, FIDH clearly stated that if an Arab Court for Human Rights were to be established to provide redress for victims of human rights violations, including violations perpetrated by non-state actors, it should be established in accordance with international standards.

Furthermore, the Court should not be set up without a formal consultation with independent civil society organizations and before the Arab Charter on Human Rights undergoes a thorough reform. Indeed, in its current form, the Charter is inconsistent with international human rights standards and lacks effective guarantees to ensure the aspiration of Arab people to an effective human rights system.

A few days after FIDH and partners submitted their recommendations to Secretary General Nabeel El Araby, who had mandated two experts to look into the modalities of an Arab Court for Human Rights, the Secretary General made an important statement, stressing the urgent need “to activate mechanisms in order to strengthen the capacity of the LAS in preventing and resolving crisis and dealing with dangerous situations resulting from human rights and international humanitarian law violations”, and reminding that Arab peoples’ demand for change and democratic reform had to be met by the States, encouraged to upgrade the regional system in accordance with international human rights conventions and treaties.

The principle of the establishment of an Arab Court for Human Rights, as proposed by the Kingdom of Bahrain, was discussed by the member-States of the LAS in a meeting in Manama at the end of February 2013.

Whilst welcoming these latest developments, FIDH would like to take the opportunity of the Arab Summit to reiterate the responsibilities of the Member States to respect, protect and promote the universality of human rights as stipulated by their obligations under the different international and regional agreements and conventions and to reaffirm that no justification (be it political, cultural, religious or economic) could be used to derogate from the respective human rights obligations of state and non state actors in the Arab region.

It has never been more timely for the LAS to listen to independent civil society in order to adapt to the unprecedented changes in the region and respond to peoples’ demands: therefore, the LAS member-States should look into ways of encouraging a greater interaction with local, regional and international NGOs through the development of a concrete modality of engagement between LAS bodies and NGOs.

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