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MENA worst region in the world for civic rights violations

December 8, 2021 at 1:16 pm

A group of migrants protest at their lack of progress obtaining transit papers on August 31, 2015 in Kos, Greece [Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]

A new report by the Civicus Monitor says that countries in the Middle East and North Africa are the worst in the world for civic rights violations.

All 19 countries in the region remain closed, repressed, or obstructed and continue to be home to some of the most repressive regimes in the world.

Jordan has been downgraded from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’ after the last remaining teacher’s union was dissolved, its members have been threatened and detained and media and internet freedom have significantly declined.

In Tunisia, the arbitrary use of travel bans has become a significant concern whilst violence in Palestine and Israel reached the worst level in April and May 2021 after protesters in East Jerusalem were hit with tear gas.

In Lebanon, anti-lockdown protests were met with excessive force killing roughly 200 protesters.

Syria continues to be one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, and in Kuwait, the Bidoon community is harassed and denied citizenship.

READ: Sisi’s battle with human rights is not over yet

The five most reported violations in the MENA are the detention of human rights defenders, censorship, the detention of journalists, harassment and the detention of protesters.

The report highlights the arrest and detention of Mohammed Basheer, Karim Ennarah, and Gasser Abdel Razek who were senior staff members for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), who were detained after a meeting with European diplomats.

Egypt also made legislative changes to tighten its grip on censorship, including a fine for anyone who documents a court session without permission.

The report also raises the “staggering use” of surveillance of dissidents which has been facilitated by the Israeli NSO Group’s spyware Pegasus.

Israel's Pegasus spyware global weapon to silence critics? - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Israel’s Pegasus spyware global weapon to silence critics? – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Civic Space notes some positive developments in the region, including the release of Ali Al-Nimr, who was sentenced to death by beheading and crucifixion in Saudi Arabia even though he was a child.

The report notes that Iran, Saudi, and the UAE are abusing criminal and legal systems to keep rights advocates in prison long after they have finished their prison sentences.

British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to one year in prison and issued a one-year travel ban by Tehran despite being released on house arrest after serving a five-year prison sentence because she attended a protest and spoke to the BBC’s Persian service.