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GULF ACTIVISTS PUSH EU TO PRESS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN REGION

DUBAI: The European Union, scheduled to hold ministerial meetings with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) next week, have been urged by human rights activists across the Gulf region to push for human rights.

The activists, in an open letter to the EU, demanded Europe push for an end to harassment and crackdowns on civil society groups and activists in the region.

The Gulf region has often been criticized over their human rights record, most notably Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

An upsurge of political activism over the past year has been met by Arab leaders with harsher security measures in most Gulf countries.

In an open letter ahead of a ministerial meeting between the EU and the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Luxemburg on Monday, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) urged EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to put human rights at the top of the agenda.

“One cannot ignore the fact that the upcoming EU-GCC Summit will take place amid a new wave of threats against the Gulf civil society,” the letter said. “Fundamental freedoms and, in particular, freedoms of expression, opinion and association are increasingly threatened.”

The letter said that there was a trend across the region towards using the judiciary to create false or politically-motivated charges against activists.

It also accused Saudi Arabia of targeting an increased number of activists and human rights defenders through the courts.

“One of the co-founders of the unlicensed ‘Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association’ (ACPRA), Mr. Mohammed al-Bajadi, was sentenced to four years imprisonment in an unfair and secret trial followed by a five-year travel ban last April,” it said.

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