The Regional Office will continue advocating for ratifications of the core human rights instruments by Member States in the MENA region. In 2018, Qatar ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Social Economic and Cultural Rights, in an important step to embark on harmonizing national legislation with international human rights standards. Other countries namely, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and UAE have not yet adhered to the two covenants. It is worth mentioning that majority of the MENA countries have not yet ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. There has been an advancement in timely reports submission to treaty bodies for most States in the region, e.g. Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Some States have had a comprehensive record of being on track with reporting obligations, e.g. Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE. On the other hand, Egypt is delayed in submitting periodic reports for seven treaty bodies, while Algeria, Bahrain and Morocco’s periodic reporting on four instruments is overdue.
Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process in the MENA region: the Regional Office in coordination with UPR Section at OHCHR Geneva supports authorities, NHRIs, UNCTs and partners to the process in their contributions to the review through advocacy, capacity building and assistance in compliance of report writing with existing standards. In addition, the Regional Office will continue to support relevant national authorities in preparing national plans of action for the implementation of recommendations stemming from the review as well as other international mechanisms including treaty bodies and special procedures. The Regional Office is actively involved in assisting governments, parliaments and civil society actors in contributing to the process whether via preparation of national reports, providing advice on the process or implementation of the recommendations at the national level (Example Saudi Arabia).
National Mechanisms for Reporting and Follow-up (NMRFs): Currently most of the countries in the region either have established or embarked on creating these mechanisms, namely, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE. The Regional Office is promoting and assisting NMRFs in the region through capacity building activities including on best ways to interact with international human rights bodies and mechanisms in line with human rights obligations. The Regional Office successfully assisted many NMRF in the region in their establishment and in developing their capacities (Example: Lebanon).
National Human Rights Institutions: The region has seen a growing demand for establishment of NHRIs, culminating in the creation of the Arab Network for National Human Rights Institutions in 2011 (Nouakchott Declaration). The network aims to promote, develop and protect human rights in the Arab world. It consists of 15 members, facilitates cooperation between its members through strong partnerships with governments, international and regional organizations and civil society organizations. Additionally, the network empowers the Arab institutions to obtain status A from the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), and motivate the Arab States to establish NHRIs in accordance with the Paris Principles. Among the 15 Arab States NHRIs, GANHRI granted status to 12 NHRIs as follows: Jordan, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco, Qatar and Palestine (A status), while Algeria Bahrain, Iraq, Libya, Oman, and Tunisia (B status). Newly established NHRIs in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Lebanon have no status yet. The Regional Office successfully assisted many NHRIs in the region in their establishment and operations phases (Examples: Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman).
Over the period 2019-2022, the Regional Office will continue its engagement with States to extend capacity building activities and technical assistance when required and exert efforts to strengthen the capacity of civil society actors in drafting shadow reports and engaging with treaty bodies as well as special procedures. It will continue to focus on advancing compliance of national legal and justice systems with international norms, and the creation of protection systems and accountability mechanisms to monitor, investigate and redress acts of torture and ill-treatment and violations of the rights of persons deprived of their liberty, violence against women among other priority thematic areas. The Regional Office will also advocate for adoption of new policies, guidelines and codes of conduct for law enforcement officials in accordance with international human rights law.
The lack of a human rights-compliant legislation on countering terrorism and prevention of violent extremism (PVE) in the region poses a risk of unlawful detention, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention or ill-treatment among other serious violations. The Regional Office will continue to extend its assistance to government authorities, including law enforcement agencies as well as NHRIs and NPMs to ensure that human rights are respected while countering terrorism and PVE.