The Middle East

EHCR Rejects Said Mansour’s Request to Block Denmark Deportation

By: Brianna Ferrante
Impunity Watch News Reporter

RABAT, MOROCCO- The European Court of Human Rights has unanimously rejected Moroccan Said Mansour’s appeal against being deported from Denmark for his terror-related convictions in fear of being subjected to torture.


Said Mansour prior to his deportation from Denmark. Photo courtesy of Carl Redhead

A court in Denmark had previously convicted Mansour in July of 2015 on charges related to the editing and publishing of three books and multiple Facebook posts considered to be terrorist propaganda.

The works were written and distributed by Mansour for the purposes of praising Osama Bin Laden and encouraging readers and followers to join an al-Queada affiliate in Syria known as the al-Nursa Front. Mansour was sentenced to four years in prison and had his Denmark citizenship revoked.

Additionally, the Moroccan ambassador to Denmark has previously stated Mansour is suspected for his alleged involvement in a 2003 terror attack that claimed the lives of 42 people in Casablanca. Since his release from prison, he was deported to Morocco on January 4th.

Mansour’s appeal to the ECHR was premised on Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights, which he alleged his deportation would directly conflict with.

Article 3 prohibits anyone from being subjected to torture, inhumane or degrading treatment of punishment. Mansour argued that he would be in danger in the north African country, due to his publicized criticisms of its king and the government.

The ECHR rejected this claim unanimously, relying  on international reports that the human rights situation in Morocco has generally improved over several years, and that the authorities have been working to improve and increase compliance with internationally mandated human rights standards.

For more information, please see:

The Local Denmark- European Court of Human Rights Upholds Danish Deportation of Former Citizen Who Incited Terror. February 14, 2019. 

Morocco World News- ECHR Rejects Said Mansour’s Request Against Deportation. February 15, 2019.

Yaabiladi English- European Court of Human Rights Endorses Mansour’s Deportation. February 15, 2019.

Saudi Women Arrested, Receive Social Backlash as the Lift on the Driving ban Approaches

By: Natalie S. Maier
Impunity Watch Reporter, The Middle East

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — As Saudi Arabia prepares to lift its ban on women driving, activists behind the change are experiencing backlash. Activists Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef and Aisha Almane were arrested last week, accused of “suspicious contact with foreign entities to support their activities, recruiting some persons in charge of sensitive government positions, and providing financial support to hostile elements outside the country,” according to a state news agency. A headline in the daily al-Jazirah newspaper branded the women as “traitors.”

Saudi Activist Manal Al Sharif. Courtesy of Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images.

The arrests are cause for concern for women’s rights campaigners around the world, who applauded the lift of the ban as a significant step for women’s rights in the country. Sydney-based Saudi activist and author Manal Al-Sharif told CNN on Sunday that she thinks the arrests show a pattern of character assassination that has previously plagued the efforts of social reform. “We used to live in a police state; if you speak up you go to jail. And then there would be a defamation campaign against you, saying all sort of untrue things… We are seeing the same pattern now,” she says. Al-Sharif also says that the security forces arrested the women in their homes, without a warrant.

Amnesty International has condemned the arrests and negative coverage by the local media in the days following. Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East director of campaigns, said that, while the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman presents himself as a reformer, “his promises of reform seem entirely superficial as the repression of human rights activists continues unabated.”

Other citizens against lifting the ban have taken to social media using the hashtag #YouWontDrive, which has been used 65,000 times since Monday. Some women chose to respond humorously by tweeting pictures and videos of their dream cars. Others, such as Sarah Al-Otaibi, responded on a more serious note, calling the hashtag a threat to women and the free exercise of their rights.

The pressure to lift the ban on driving comes as a larger call by women to end Saudi Arabia’s practices of male guardianship, which require women to get the permission of a male guardian to do almost everything. Other key changes since December of 2015 include women voting and standing as candidates in political elections, attending public sporting events, and entering the workforce in the hotel industry.

King Salman issued the decree in September of 2017 allowing women to drive for the first time in the country’s history. The ban on driving is set to be lifted on June 24, 2018.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Saudi Arabia women’s driving activists ‘targeted in smear campaign’ – 20 May 2018

BBC – Saudi women troll men telling them ‘you won’t drive’ – 16 May 2018

CNN – Saudi Arabia arrests female activists week before lifting of driving ban – 20 May 2018


UK Apologizes for Torture of Libyan Rebel Commander and his Wife

By: Natalie S. Maier
Impunity Watch Reporter, The Middle East

TRIPOLI, Libya – Libyan Rebel Commander Abdul Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar have received an apology from the UK government following “appalling treatment” during their detention in 2004.

Boudchar and her son. Photo Courtesy of BBC News.

Mr. Belhaj and Ms. Boudchar were taken to Tripoli where they were both tortured by Libyan jailers. Belhaj had been an opponent of Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi and lead the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in multiple assassination attempts on Gaddafi. Belhaj and his wife were abducted in 2001 while trying to fly from Bangkok to London to seek asylum in the UK . Boudchar was five months pregnant at the time.

In the aftermath of the terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the US and its allies sought to track jihadists groups more closely. This included British Intelligence agencies’ monitoring of Libyan dissidents who had been living under UK protection. Senior MI6 officer, Sir Mark Allen, was at the center of an operation attempting to convince Gaddafi and his henchmen to work with the West. Papers found by the Human Rights Watch, known as the Tripoli documents, show that Allen and his Libyan counterpart, Moussa Koussa, had agreed that counterterrorism experts from both party’s sides should meet and discuss their common enemies. Koussa allegedly wanted intelligence that would lead to the capture of LIFG leaders on the run, in addition to recognition for Libya.

In 2004, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Gaddafi made a diplomatic move ultimately known as the “deal in the desert.” As consideration, the UK agreed to provide information on the whereabouts of the regime’s enemies.

On March 1, 2004, information from London to Tripoli tipped off Belhaj and his wife, who were in Malaysia at the time. Malaysian authorities, in communication with the Libyans, put the couple on a flight to Bangkok, where they were received and immediately detained. A day later, the couple was transported to Tripoli. Belhaj alleges that he was continuously tortured during a six-year period in prison. Boudchar was released only a few months after being detained, and shortly before giving birth.

On Thursday, May 10, 2018, British Prime Minister Theresa May issued a public apology to Belhaj, Boudchar, and their son, with whom Boudchar was pregnant at the time of her detainment. All three family members were present at the reading of the apology. Belhaj told BBC news, “I hope that it is a new page in history, that we guarantee and strengthen human rights and this practice is not repeated.”

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Belhaj rendition: UK apology over Libyan dissident treatment – 10 May 2018

Evening Standard – Libyan dissident Abdul Hakim Belhaj, tortured by Gaddafi regime, receives apology from Theresa May – as his wife Fatima Boudchar is given £500,000 payout – 10 May 2018

Middle East Eye – British government apologizes to Libyan dissident Belhaj over rendition – 10 May 2018 

BBC News – Abdul Hakim Belhaj: the documents trail that nailed  UK’s secret role in rendition – 10 May 2018 


Victims of Human Rights Abuses in UAE Share their Stories with UN Investigators

Justin Santabarbara
Impunity Watch Reporter, The Middle East

GENEVA, Switzerland – As the United Nations is preparing their annual human rights review for the Middle East, several of the investigators are taking some time to hear from individuals, who state that human rights abuses continue to be rampant and violent. Naji Hamdan, David Haigh, Mahmood al-Jaidah, and Khaled Mohamed Amed each sat on a panel at the Geneva Press Club to share their experiences with UN investigators and researchers.

Naji Hamdan (L) with Mahmood Al-Jaidah, survivors of torture in the UAE. Photo Courtesy of Middle East Eye.

The UAE human rights panel, which took place at the Geneva Press Club, detailed instances of rape, electrocution, and sleep deprivation. Each of the panel’s participants stated that they were detained for “anti-terror” crimes. Each were arrested by members of the secret intelligence services, which the UN has stated will weigh unfavorably against the UAE. the UN has counted arrests by intelligence services as kidnappings.

Hamdan, who gave the most detailed account of all the participants, stated that after being arrested by secret intelligence services, he was held in a freezing underground bunker with little food or water. Additionally, Hamdan stated that he was severely beaten over a period of 89 days, and for as long as 13 hours per day. Hamdan stated that despite being strapped to an electric chair, and the repeated blow to the head, the worst part was the threats made against his family for unsatisfactory answers to the interrogators’ questions.

Hamdan’s ACLU legal representatives asserted that he was tortured “by proxy” at the request of the United States.

In previous years, the UN has sent its researchers and investigators advisory notices regarding the purported human rights violations. The CIRI Human Rights Report has echoed this sentiment over the past violation reviews. CIRI has detected a strong decline in the state of personal integrity human rights in the UAE, as well as workers’ human rights. Additionally, the trends between the two subdivisions of review tends to echo much of the directives from the United Nations.

For more information, please see:

23 January 2018 – Middle East Eye -A Qatari citizen’s two years of abuse and false imprisonment by the UAE

21 January 2018 – Middle East Eye – Survivors of UAE Torture Detail Abuse Ahead of UN Human Rights Review 

CIRI Human Rights Report 

U.S. officials say Syria may be making new forms of chemical weapons

Matthew Sneed
Impunity Watch Reporter, The Middle East

WASHINGTON D.C., United States – On February 1, President Trump’s administration accused Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government of developing new chemical weapons. Officials say that the recent alleged attacks in Syria show characteristics similar to the chemical weapons attacks in 2013, the same year Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapon program.

Workers and police stand outside of a restaurant following a missile attack in Syria on February 1. Photo courtesy of Can Erok.

Officials believe that the weapons used are not necessarily newly invented weapons, but rather they are being deployed in a new method. The possible reason for this is because the new deployments make it harder to trace the origins of the attack. For example, during the attacks in 2013, barrel bombs were used to launch chemical weapons, now, those have been replaced with ground-launched munitions. In addition, chlorine is being used more because of its non-chemical uses and because it is easy to acquire. Also, the chemical compound sarin has been found in the remains of recent attacks.

Speaking on anonymity, officials said the President has not ruled out a military response to Syria’s actions. “We reserve the right to use military force to prevent or deter the use of chemical weapons,” one official said, but would not go into detail about how serious a chemical attack would need to be to generate a military response. However, another official said the administration hopes that the increased sanctions and diplomatic pressure placed on Syria will be enough to stop the weapons program.

Assad’s government continues to deny the use of chemical weapons and Russia, Syria’s ally, claimed the reports of chemical attacks were false. Last year, Russia vetoed the renewal of the of the Joint Investigative Mission, a U.N. committee dedicated to the investigation of chemical weapons. This led the U.S. and other nations to accuse Russia of covering the attacks used by Assad’s army.

Official’s believe that Assad risks using such dangerous weapons to terrorize rebels and civilians, causing them to evacuate. This would allow him to consolidate control to specific regions. The weapons also compensate for Assad’s inability to take certain regains due to a lake of manpower. Moreover, officials believe that if the attacks continue without an adequate response, there will be an increased number of smaller chemical attacks. One official said, “They think they can get away with it if they keep it under a certain level.”

Since 2011, more than 5.4 million people have fled the country while millions more have been displaced inside the country itself. Over 13 million inside the country are in need and at least 3 million are in areas the U.N. describes as “hard to reach and besieged.”

For more information please see:

The Washington Post – US says Syria making new chemical weapons despite 2013 deal – 1, Feb. 2018

Reuters – U.S. says Syria may be developing new types of chemical weapons – 1, Feb. 2018

CBS News – Syria may be making new types of chemical weapons, U.S. says – 1, Feb, 2018