Algeria alleges that Mr Mesli is connected with a terrorist group, the GSPC (which is false), and states that an Interpol warrant has been issued against him (via the Algerian government) and that therefore he should have no right to address the Human Rights Council.
Mr Mesli has been a recognised refugee in Switzerland since 2000. Since 2000, Mr Mesli has continued his decades of human rights legal advocacy work for victims, both in Algeria and in the Arab world. The concerns raised by Algeria all post-date his arrival in Switzerland. Needless to say, Mr Mesli has received no attention from the Swiss authorities, despite the serious allegations raised by the Algerian government - thereby indicating the lack of credibility of the allegations.
Alkarama is extremely concerned at the decision taken by the Committee. It sets a dangerous precedent as it means that individual human rights defenders and NGOs could be targeted by Governments who violate human rights (as has happened in this case). Governments could undermine the work of human rights advocates, and the NGOs they work for, by presenting false and/or misleading information to the ECOSOC-NGO Committee.
This decision therefore goes against the express purpose of the ECOSOC-NGO Committee which is to ensure that ECOSOC, its subsidiary bodies and the Human Rights Council benefit from the expertise of NGOs. The input of NGOs is a crucial element of the intergovernmental processes. It is expressly stated by the UN General Assembly that NGOs play an important role at the national, regional and international levels, in the promotion and protection of human rights. This decision therefore goes to the heart of civil society being able to participate in the work of the Human Rights Council and potentially affects the credibility of all the human rights work of ECOSOC and the Human Rights Council.
Algeria raised this complaint with the Committee at short notice and it is clear from the record of the meeting that there was insufficient time for the Committee to properly receive all information and to consider the complaint. We are further concerned that the Committee has based its decision primarily on information received from Algeria. We consider the Committee's procedure to be flawed and that it has arrived at an incorrect conclusion as it was unaware of all of the relevant information.
Obviously, Alkarama is very concerned at the intentional misinformation from the Algerian Permanent Mission against Mr Mesli which has serious flow-on effects not only for our colleague, but also for all NGOs which work with the United Nations.
We also note that Algeria does not raise concerns about the content of Mr Mesli's oral statement to the Human Rights Council on 10.6.2008, (which contained well-documented concerns of serious human rights violations in Algeria), but rather who it was presented by, thereby showing this complaint is motivated by reasons other than the appropriate conduct of NGOs in the Human Rights Council.
This is not the first time Algeria has tried to silence an NGO working on human rights violations. In 1997, the then Algerian Ambassador publicly complained about Amnesty International due to its reporting of massive human rights violations in Algeria, and publicly requested for Amnesty International to lose its ECOSOC consultative status. The ill-founded attack against Mr Mesli, a well-respected human rights advocate, is yet another attempt by Algeria to silence critics of its human rights record.
If the complaint by Algeria is upheld by the Committee, it obviously sets a very concerning precedent which will seriously affect the credibility of the Committee and the accreditation of NGOs. This complaint therefore affects not only our colleague, Mr Mesli, the ACHR, but all other NGOs, particularly national NGOs who are not welcomed by governments with well-known records for human rights violations.
Alkarama intends to present its concerns to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and to the ECOSOC-NGO Committee shortly.
Alkarama is a registered Swiss foundation working on human rights throughout the Arab world. We have offices and representatives in Geneva (our head office), Lebanon (Beirut), Doha, and Yemen. Alkarama participates in all of the United Nations human rights procedures including submission of communications and reports to the Special Procedures and Treaty bodies as well as the newly established Universal Periodic Review. The aim of Alkarama is to work in a constructive dialogue with all actors - including States, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and all members of civil society. We focus on following four priority areas: arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial executions. Alkarama has submitted thousands of communications to the UN Special Procedures, including more than 1,000 cases concerning the sensitive issue of the disappeared in Algeria. For example, in 2007 more than 90% of cases examined by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concerning the Arab world were submitted by Alkarama.29 January 2009
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