Since the beginning of the last decade, human rights violations have been escalating in the Middle East and North Africa. People have taken to the streets to protest against the dire political and economic conditions, and armed conflicts have ravaged some countries. Governments in the region have used violent tactics to subdue and silence dissenting voices and have systematically targeted political activists and journalists.
In January 2023, repressive regimes continued to target peaceful activists and journalists, suppress popular protests, and restrict public freedoms. In Eastern Europe, the Russian-Ukrainian military conflict claimed the lives of hundreds more civilians, and continues to cause the displacement of now millions of Ukrainians to neighbouring countries. The crisis has exposed the discriminatory double standards of European politicians, officials, journalists, and celebrities, who have called for embracing Ukrainian refugees who share their race, skin colour, religion and/or cultural values unlike asylum seekers and migrants from regions outside Europe.
Last month, our team worked alongside partner organisations and dozens of regional and international organisations to generate real change by speaking to decision-makers about practises and methodologies that must be addressed and reformed or abolished. We also harnessed the power of social media to virtually engage the public regarding issues that affect their rights, as well as human dignity as a whole.
On 19 January, the European Parliament voted in favour of a resolution calling on Morocco to respect freedom of the press and expression and free detained journalists Soulaimane Raissouni, Omar Radi, and Taoufik Bouachrine, as well as put an end to the harassment of all journalists, their lawyers, and their families.
Since the three journalists’ initial detainment and trials, Euro-Med Monitor has urged all concerned parties to work for their release and put pressure on the Moroccan authorities to end their infringement on freedom of expression, opinion, and the press.
[Morocco: Imprisoning journalists, human rights activists perpetuates the criminalisation of critics]
On 13 January, a Greek court dropped espionage charges against 24 aid workers who had been on trial for the past year for rescuing migrants and asylum seekers in the Mediterranean Sea. Euro-Med Monitor had demanded in November 2022 that all charges be dropped, and that the criminalisation of human solidarity operations be stopped.
On 9 January, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution to extend for six months the cross-border mechanism for delivering life-saving humanitarian aid to north-western Syria across the Turkish border. This will help ensure a sustained flow of humanitarian aid to millions of people in the north of the country.
Last year, Euro-Med Monitor had urged the United Nations Security Council to extend the cross-border aid mechanism to northern Syria, warning that failure to do so would exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in those areas.
[Syria: Cross-border aid mechanism extension is necessary for the survival of millions]
On 27 January, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons concluded a two-year investigation, in which it revealed that at least one government military helicopter dropped chlorine gas barrels on residential buildings in the Syrian city of Douma, killing 47 people. The investigation is a crucial record in any effort to hold those responsible for the attack accountable.
In 2018, Euro-Med Monitor had called for an independent investigation into the chemical attack on Douma, located in Damascus’ countryside, urging the international community to take responsibility for protecting Syrian civilians and holding those responsible accountable.
[Syria: The international community bears responsibility for Douma chemical attack]
In January, Iraq recovered 142 Iraqi families who were being held in the al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria, while France recovered 15 French women and 32 French children—family members of ISIL fighter—who were being held in camps in north-eastern Syria.
For years, Euro-Med Monitor and partner organisations have written to several European and Middle Eastern countries urging them to recover their nationals from detention camps in north-eastern Syria, where they are held in deplorable conditions and denied basic human rights.
[On 10th anniversary of Syrian crisis: Euro-Med Monitor reviews IDPs’ conditions at HRC]
Saudi authorities released prisoner of conscience Abdulrahman al-Hamid after nearly nine years of arbitrary detention.
For years, Euro-Med Monitor and partner organisations have been calling on Saudi authorities to release prisoners of conscience, and have launched campaigns urging the authorities to end the policy of arbitrary detention and respect individuals’ right to free expression.
[Saudi Arabia: UN intervention required to protect prisoners of conscience from maximum sentence for criticising authorities]