Freedom of expression
Freedom of expression is the foundation of any open and free society in which all members, including minorities and dissidents can fully participate in the public debate. When a state stifles free speech – the general human rights situation in the country is often equally worrisome.
ECDHR advocates against harassment, arbitrary detention, imprisonment and, in worst cases, capital punishment of human rights activists and political opposition leaders who are persecuted only for expressing their opinions and political positions, both online and offline.
Freedom of assembly
Freedom of assembly is closely linked to the freedom of association and the freedom of speech. The freedom of assembly gives people the right to take part in peaceful gatherings, such as demonstrations or public meetings. Several GCC government place restrictions on freedoms of assembly and association. A violent and large-scale example is the police crackdown on protesters during Bahrain’s 2011 pro-democracy uprising.
Rights of migrant workers
Migrant workers in GCC countries continue to be victims of systematic abuse and human trafficking. Despite pledges made by GCC states in recent years, the Gulf countries have not abolished the kafala system of sponsorship-based employment, implemented reforms to their labour laws, nor followed through on anti-trafficking initiatives. As a result, millions of low-wage South Asian men and women, who migrate to the Gulf through a state-sanctioned trafficking network, are highly vulnerable to exploitation in conditions that amount to forced labour.
All GCC countries, except Oman, have signed the UN Convention against Torture. However, authorities in some countries continue to make use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Detainees are being convicted, in some cases even to death, on the basis of confessions extracted under torture. Very few torture allegations against authorities are being properly investigated. The fight against this culture of impunity remains a major challenge.
Death penalty remains a possible legal punishment in all GCC countries, often for delinquencies which do not fall into the category of the “most serious crimes.” Qatar, Oman and the UAE haven’t executed in years, while Saudi Arabia continues to have one of the world’s highest execution rates. In a worried regional trend, Kuwait and Bahrain resumed executions in January 2017 after years of de facto moratorium. Human rights defenders, dissidents and opposition figures, often convicted in unfair trials, continue to be among the innocent victims.
A victim of arbitrary detention is a person that is detained for no legitimate reason or without legal process. In several GCC countries authorities continue to arbitrarily arrest and hold detainees for extremely long periods in pre-trail detention and without any specific charges. During arbitrary pre-trail detention, the detainees are vulnerable to torture and other ill-treatments. Victims of arbitrary detention are often prevented from getting judiciary assistance and from informing their families of their well-being and location.