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Arab organisations condemn smear campaigns targeting human rights defenders

Grave developments threaten the lives of human rights defenders

(CIHRS/IFEX) - January 10, 2010 - The undersigned Arab human rights organizations wish to express their condemnation and profound contempt for the smear campaigns launched against prominent Tunisian human rights defenders, among them Kamel Jendoubi, president of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network; Sihem Bensedrine, spokeswoman for the National Council for Liberties; Mokhtar Trifi, president of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights; and Khamis Chamari, the former Secretary-General of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights and a founding member of the October 18 Movement for Rights and Freedoms.

Led and directed by the pro-government Tunisian press, these campaigns have gone so far as to accuse human rights defenders and opposition journalists in Tunisia of collaborating and spying for Israel. Containing various incitements to murder, the campaigns are preparing public opinion to disregard any potential assassinations of these activists, already branded as "traitors."

Slim Bagga - a Tunisian opposition journalist who lives in France - received a death threat letter from an anonymous Palestinian living in Lebanon for being a traitor and spying for Israel. This happened in the wake of Bagga's contribution to a book exposing the growing political influence of the wife of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in addition to her influence on the financial and economic business of the state.

The undersigned organizations declare their solidarity with human rights defenders in Tunisia, and they place full responsibility for these smear campaigns with the Tunisian authorities. These slanderous campaigns are nothing but a cover for the brutal practices of the Tunisian police state, which have targeted human rights defenders and critics of the state's repressive policies, particularly over the last year. Because of these practices, a growing number of human rights defenders, journalists, and independent political dissidents face degrading physical and verbal assaults, arbitrary arrests, and unfair prosecution. The homes and offices of political and rights activists have also been placed under a tight security siege.

The undersigned Arab human rights organizations urge the Tunisian authorities to take immediate steps to stop the smear campaigns, which, with the claims of treason, constitute a grave breach of journalistic ethics and freedom of expression. The authorities must end all forms of abuse against human rights defenders and Tunisian human rights organizations. We also call on UN human rights bodies and agencies, particularly the office of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, to undertake the necessary measures to stop these campaigns, which are aimed at covering up physical attacks suffered by human rights defenders in the country.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights

Jerusalem Legal aid and Human Rights Center (Palestine)

Amman Center for Human Rights Studies

Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies (Egypt)

Arab Penal Reform Organization (Egypt)

Arab Program for Human Rights Activists (Egypt)

Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights (Yemen)

Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced Persons (Palestine)

Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights

Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services (Egypt)

Association of Families of Disappeared in Algeria

Committee for the Respect of Freedoms and Human Rights in Tunisia (CRLDHT)

Committees for the Defense of Democracy Freedom and Human Rights (Syria)

Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies

Group for Democratic Defenders (Egypt)

Egyptian Center for the Rights of the Child

Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions

Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights

Filastiniyat – Palestinian Women's Organization

Group for Human Rights Legal Aid (Egypt)

Hesham Mubarak Law Center (Egypt)

Human Rights Center for the Assistance of Prisoners (Egypt)

Human Rights First Society-Saudi Arabia

Journalists for Human Rights-Sudan

Kurdish Committee for Human Rights (Syria)

Land Center for Human Rights (Egypt)

Mezan Center for Human Rights (Palestine)

Moroccan Organization for Human Rights

Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence (Egypt)

New Woman Foundation (Egypt)

Palestinian Center for Human Rights

Palestinian Human Rights Organization (Lebanon)

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

The Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (Egypt)

The Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement

The Libyan League for Human Rights

The Moroccan Association for Human Rights

The Organization for the Defense of Rights and Freedoms (ADDEL) (Morocco)

The Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights

The Tunisian Organization for Democratic Women

Yemeni Organization for the Defense of Human Rights

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