Geneva - Three experts joined a Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor webinar organized on 30 June 2021 to mark the International Day against Torture in the context of the Middle East. The experts highlighted using torture as a weapon of war in the Middle East, non-state actors and governments’ use of torture to silence dissents in the ME, the UN and torture in the ME, and the implications of torture in the ME.
Sabah Carrim, PhD, International Law Expert, noted that “Torture methods vary. They can be of a physical nature, like beatings and electric shocks. They can be of a sexual nature, like rape or sexual humiliation. Or they can be of a psychological nature, like sleep deprivation or prolonged solitary confinement.”
Carrim noted that the notion of prisons has only emerged 300 years ago, and the international community and international law give law enforcement agencies much space to deal with prisoners without practicing any form of torture against them.
Speaking of his detention in Syria in 2012, Navvar Saban, currently a research at Omran Center for Research and Studies noted that the purpose of torture has changed over time and so was the case in Syria. “The first step for the torturers was to detain people. You are not allowed to have any human basic rights. They would detain people to silence them but later or then would detain people to restrict their freedoms.”
Saban himself is a survivor of dentation and torture in the prisons of the Syrian government. He noted that much of the torture practiced today in Syria is done by the Syrian government but also other non-state actors from all parties practice it too.
Abdelfettah Elkchirid, PhD, Wilfrid Laurier University spoke about litigating the social impact of sexualized torture in the Middle East, noting that the society is involved in blaming the victims of sexualized torture. He gave the example that if a person is subjected to torture and their manhood is violated, the society will view them with shame, calling for the need to end this way of looking at victims of sexualized torture.
Ahmad Alnaouq, the Advocacy and Outreach officer of The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, noted that the Geneva-based organization has called on the governments of Arab countries in a recent report to stop all forms of torture against prisoners and detainees, stressing that most governments and conflicting parties in the Middle East and North Africa, especially the Syrian regime, which uses torture as a systematic policy inside prisons and detention centers.
According to the report, Most governments in the Arab region widely practice torture, amid near absence of effective accountability and oversight mechanisms, and they sometimes cover up these illegal practices.
Based on 32 testimonies of former detainees and families of current detainees, the Euro-Med Monitor report, entitled “I Can’t take it anymore”, highlighted the methods and forms of torture practiced in different countries of the Arab region.
It documented torture practices in nine Middle Eastern countries; Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE, Israel and the Palestinian territories, in addition to five others in North Africa; Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Sudan.
The seminar is one in series The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor holds on regular basis to highlight human rights violations in the Middle East, including by governments and non-state actors, targeting human rights defenders, migrant workers and journalists.