Amnesty International refers to “Arab countries exploiting the Corona virus pandemic to restrict freedoms”

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                The annual report of Amnesty International, published on March 29, revealed that measures to combat the Corona epidemic and the complexity of conflicts in a number of regions of the world contributed to an increase in human rights violations, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, and the governments of these regions used them as a pretext to restrict freedoms and arrest opponents.                 </p><div>

                <p>published <a href="https://www.france24.com/ar/الشرق-الأوسط/20220305-منظمة-العفو-الدولية-تدعو-إلى-إطلاق-سراح-المدون-السعودي-رائف-بدوي-بعد-استكماله-حكما-جائرا-بالسجن" target="_self" rel="noopener"><strong>AI</strong></a>  Tuesday 29 March<a href="https://www.amnesty.org/ar/wp-content/uploads/sites/9/2022/03/POL1048702022ARABIC.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><strong>  its annual report</strong></a>  about the situation of human rights in the world during the year 2021. And without surprise, the report of the organization was bleak, as it indicated that the employment of governments and multinational companies to combat measures <a href="https://www.france24.com/ar/فرنسا/20220318-فيروس-كورونا-تخفيف-الإجراءات-في-دول-عدة-هل-باتت-الأزمة-فعلا-وراءنا" target="_self" rel="noopener"><strong>covid-19 pandemic</strong></a> The intensification of conflicts increased inequality and violations of basic rights. 

As for the Arab world, the report confirms that a number of governments in the region have issued more legislation that restricts freedoms and imposes censorship on the Internet. Human rights defenders have faced criminal prosecutions and prison sentences, and security forces have used unlawful force to crush peaceful protests.

Breaking the wave of the Arab Spring

According to the report, “escalating poverty, food insecurity, and the pandemic’s use by governments to further suppress dissent and protests increased dramatically in 2021,” while the risk of new conflicts increased in addition to the intensification of the already ongoing conflicts.

This applies in particular to the countries of North Africa and the Middle East, which commemorated in 2021 the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the outbreak of the “Arab Spring” revolutions in 2011. In countries such as Libya and Israel And the occupied Palestinian territories, in addition to Yemen, the international organization indicates that “the battles have turned into widespread violations of international humanitarian law and human rights.”

The report accuses several governments of “not prioritizing the population’s access to health services, including vaccines against the Corona virus.”

In an interview with France 24, Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, explained that the pandemic itself has played a role in the deterioration of human rights, saying: “Over the past two years, the pandemic has contributed to reducing international attention to conflicts in these regions on the whole. Similar to the forgotten wars in Syria and Yemen, some governments, especially in North Africa, have exploited the pandemic to limit freedom of expression in the name of the emergency health situation.

Such measures limited freedom of assembly and the right to demonstrate in Lebanon, Algeria and Iraq, for example, where a wave of continuous protest movements was broken at that time, according to Heba Morayef. “Since 2011, there have been many changes, but for the worse in most cases, especially in the countries concerned with the Arab Spring, where regimes that were shaken by unprecedented protest movements, such as Egypt and Bahrain, worked to prevent the recurrence of such uprisings,” Morayef added.

With or without the pandemic, Amnesty International counts a staggering number of violations of freedom of expression in the Middle East and North Africa, where it is “greatly restricted at a time when governments have adopted draconian laws that violate the mere exercise of this right”.

A “great restriction” on freedom of expression

The organization asserts that violations of the right to freedom of expression include the Internet and public space as it has continued to “censor the Internet and spend money to acquire digital surveillance equipment.”

The report adds: “Across the region, authorities continued to arrest, detain, and prosecute individuals solely for the peaceful expression of their opinions and frequently used subjective articles in the penal code criminalizing ‘insults’ to prosecute critics of the authorities, including criticism of their handling of the pandemic.”

Amnesty International mentions the “known” case of Saudi Abdul Rahman Al-Sadhan, who was sentenced to twenty years in prison and banned from traveling for the same period for “publishing tweets criticizing the government’s economic policy.”

<p>In Libya, the report confirms that Parliament has passed a law on cybercrime that imposes severe restrictions on freedom of expression on the Internet and allows the government to prosecute, monitor, and punish with imprisonment those who publish content deemed “immoral.” 

In neighboring Egypt, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved a law criminalizing the dissemination of information about epidemics based on vaguely worded reasons.

For her part, Heba Morayef says: “Freedom of expression includes all aspects of citizens’ daily life and allows them to live the way they want, and we are in a situation where the countries of the region provide only a narrow margin for expression, whether with regard to political opposition or demonstrations.”

In addition to stressing freedom of opinion and expression, the report stresses that human rights in general are subject to restrictions in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa.

The list of human rights that are subject to restrictions, according to the Amnesty International report, include prison overcrowding, war crimes, serious violations of international humanitarian law, foreign military intervention, violations of the rights of refugees and migrants, precarious conditions for foreign workers, land confiscation, violence against women, and discrimination against LGBT people and ethnic and religious minorities.

The report notes that in 18 countries in the region, “cases of torture and ill-treatment in this year (2021) were recorded in official and unofficial detention sites.”

Regarding the Palestinian territories, Libya, Syria and Yemen, Heba Morayef adds, “In light of the conflicts that these countries suffer from, their residents live in worse humanitarian conditions in light of violations of international humanitarian law and the generalization of impunity for war crimes.”

Despite this difficult context, the issue of human rights is of great interest to the people of the region. According to “Amnesty International”, more than 630,000 people in the region have applied in the past three years to join or express their support for non-governmental organizations.

“Repetition of the Syrian scenario in Ukraine”

In addition, the NGO warned during its presentation of its report in Johannesburg that Russias invasion of UkraineA is a “repetition” of the war in Syria, denouncing the “increasing war crimes” after more than a month of conflict, and calling for the abandonment of any neutral stance towards Moscow.

“We are facing deliberate attacks on civilian infrastructure and housing” and the bombing of schools, said the Secretary-General of the NGO, Agnes Callamard, accusing Russia of turning humanitarian corridors into a “death trap.” years.

French text: Marc Daou Arabic text: Omar Al-Tays

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