December 7, 2018
An escalating crackdown on freedoms across the Gulf states has brought renewed international attention to the human rights situation in the region, Amnesty International said today, ahead of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit which takes place in Riyadh on Sunday.
“2018 has been a particularly brutal year for peaceful human rights activists, journalists and dissidents in the Gulf states. The abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi in October shone a global spotlight on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record at home and in Yemen. All of the Gulf states gathering on Sunday have continued their suppression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly over the past year,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns.
“Gulf leaders can no longer operate on the assumption that they have a carte blanche to treat their citizens like criminals whenever they express dissent without fear of any international repercussions.”
The GCC states – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Qatar – typically come together to discuss trade and security cooperation. Discussion of human rights has been noticeably absent from the agenda of past summits. It is unclear whether Qatar will attend Sunday’s summit in light of the ongoing rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain.
During 2018 the persecution of human rights defenders, journalists and other peaceful dissenters has escalated across the Gulf region. Torture, harassment, arbitrary detention, executions and unfair trials have been rife for years, and governments continue to use vaguely worded “counterterror” laws to intimidate critics into silence.
In the UAE, human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor, attorney Mohammed al-Roken and academic Nasser bin Ghaith are all serving lengthy prison sentences simply for expressing their views peacefully. In Oman, human rights activists such as Saeed Jaddad and Mohammed al-Fazari have been driven into exile after years of persecution by the government.