The International Campaign for Defending freedom of the detained Journalist Taysir Alony “Free Taysir” comprises of about 30 NGOs and more than 1500 persons in solidarity with Alony rises many controversial questions that always face the human rights defenders when opening the arbitrary detention file. The attempt to answer such questions is an opportunity to put measures for success or fail of any action meant to bring justice and defend victims.
Are the traditional usual advocacy techniques enough for defending the detainees?
More than 40 years ago, Amnesty International originated the technique of gathering all the members, friends, public personas and human rights defenders to advocate and unite in solidarity to call for the release of the detainee. Some of the AI’s advocacy campaigns included millions of letters in advocacy. Several campaigns have already achieved victory in releasing detainees who were sentenced, by an unfair exceptional trials, to death or a lifetime imprisonment, while other campaigns waited for the release of the detainee(s) for more than 20 years. For instance, the advocacy campaign to free Dr. Ahmed Fawaz have felt that their efforts are going in vain by the 15th year of Fawaz’s imprison term. As for the advocacy campaign to free the officer Khalil Briz, the author of (The Fall of Al-Golan), its members have been changed several times and he had been released after more than 25 years in detention.
Numerous campaigns and actions have achieved success. Human Rights Organizations have played a vital role in notably reducing the number of political prisoners in the Arab world. But it is not possible to continue using the traditional means to resist repression and injustice, and to put all the responsibility on one group’s shoulders. To make everyone believes in her/ his ability to act and make change is the most important means to defend rights and liberties in general and the political detainees in particular. To send a postal card, to write few words or to distribute an e-mail or even to mention the prisoner in public talks.
As long as we can mention, whenever it is possible, that Matrouk Al-Faleh is not with his family tonight, Abo Belal Abdallah Al-Hamed is not able to go to the bookshop to buy a new book, Galal Al-Zoghlamy is not able to go out with his friends, Abdel Aziz Al-Khair is not able to examine patients except his co-prisoners, Al-Khewany writes only on the cell walls, Mohammad Al-Hassan gives his speeches only to the prisoners, Aref Daliala lectures only to Al-Adra prison walls and Al-Lahem defends from behind Al-Gaber prison bars.
As long as we can remember that nobody will be able to attend the National Dialogue Forum in Riyadh Saif’s Salon, and that nobody is no longer discussing the idea of establishing a human rights committee in the Syrian Parliament since the detention of Mamoun Al-Homsi. Since Sheikh Saied Ben Zo’ier was sentenced to 5-year in prison for an interview he made in A-Jazeera channel, many intellectual think twice before expressing their opinion in the Arab media means and every Arab journalist lives in the west will be at stake. Taysir Alony is still behind the bars in a dark prison in the Spanish capital
For every unjustly treated person, to be forgotten is the worst feeling could be felt, while the sense of tireless efforts for his/her advantage is the best consolidation.
The second question is:
Can an intellectual be silent and protected form the humiliation of silence in an era of humiliation?
The muddy stability of the repressive regimes has created a sense of fear to those intellectuals who become to prefer conferences tourism and the palaces prizes rather than actual fighting for the defense of dignity and fundamental freedoms.
It could be understood that a poet refuses to sign a petition concerning the destiny of the disappeared person in the Arab world. But when who works for liberty and democracy, and calls for them in every gathering, refuses to sign such a petition, this would be a tragic disaster for the human rights defenders.
There are also those semi- intellectuals who failed to play an intellectual, social or political role, and they have no role to play but the security role. They issue press releases arguing to close the offices of the satellite channels that call for terrorism and promoting the fighting terrorism means, as if the American administration has not done enough in this regard.
The third question is:
What is the importance of the “Habeas Corpus” principal for the democratic reform?
Democratic reform can not be achieved by neither discussing those who are in power nor by being silent about injustice and waiting for the proper time to make a change. Europe’s experiment in change shows that the starting point is to link the individual freedom with the judicial authority, not with the arbitration of the regime.
The principal of “Habeas Corpus” planted safety for those who like to express their opinions as well as it discriminated between those who use weapons and those who use words to resist injustice. Such principal has not been applied in Arab states yet. It was not applied on the poet Aly Al-Domainy when his lawyer Abdel Rahaman Al-Lahem submitted him before the judge, who listened to none of al-Dominy’s poems, but only prevented those who wanted to attend the hearing session.
Abdel Kerem Aslan was referred to the Syrian State Security Court after more than 13 years in detention in Egypt. No Islamic political prisoner has the right to natural trial. The number of those who were in prison for belonging to the different trends of the political Islamic movement is estimated to be more than 25,000 since Al-Sadat’s assassination.
So that, wee would like to remind with the fact that Europe’s intellectuals in the age of renaissance were those who defended the independence of judiciary, the freedom of detainees and the safety of body and soul. The writings about torture in Europe preceded all the legal regional and international documents in this regard.
Can we succeed in the fight with the globalized trend?
The climate after September 11 affected all the fields of human rights defense. The human rights movement was divided into those who agreed on standing in the Pentagon’s side in order not to be against it, those who deliberately disregard the consequences of the “war against terrorism” and those who chose to focus on the governments’ violations. Generally, the human right movement was divided into false allegations distributors and serious resisters, in between, there are those who chose to just watch.
The time has proved that the thought of obtaining living and standing in the side of the strong party is an action-limited thought and isolated from the public’s problems and concerns. It is used only for garnishing an American initiative or a conference organized by the power holders. Such thought is not reliable to generate a human rights culture and teach democratic practices with a deep effect in Arab Muslim communities. It is very well known that the public sense is the filter that has distinguished between those who work for human rights and those who use human rights . The public sense filtered the files, the groups and the individuals. That filtering process will affect greatly on the geography of the future, not only in the human rights field, but also on the social tools and techniques of defending human rights.
The international civil societies have succeeded in proving the illegitimacy of the Occupation of Iraq, in shedding lights on the human rights violations committed under the name of the war against terrorism, in abolishing the exceptional laws in several countries, and even put Blair’s exceptional government and its judicial authority under the doubts of the British majority. Which means that Bush and Ramsfeiled- trend can not do or impose what does it want. It is an urgent matter of accountability and holding responsibility. The file of crimes and punishment will not be closed because the US is the strongest polar. The battle goes on, it needs wide frontlines as well as tireless efforts.
In the end of the 19th century, when the Drivos case was in France, a number of human rights defenders were afraid of the involvement in a case of an unknown Jewish officer, but a number of intellectuals opposed this rout trend. Those are the “adventurers” who found the French League for Human Rights, however it died when its program faced France and the whole world.
When the tragedy of Qala-i-Jhangi in Afghanistan took place, we moved with few number of human rights defenders, though many had advised us not to swim against the stream, considering the matter “in vain”. Months later, several European and American NGOs joined us, people realized that this case will not be forgotten. Today, many activists are talking about the necessity of documenting for this tragedy in order to maintain legal or immaterial accountability.
To hide behind generalities of slogans, to ignore the wounds, to avoid the just cases because they are critical and to avoid bearing the responsibility of claiming basic rights and freedoms, none of these behaviors can be part of the accumulation that is necessary for maintaining the fundamental freedoms and rights and for building a better future.
Let those who prefer silence live in the decorated caves, and remember that disregarding a case does not affect its justice and that human rights is a struggling practice. Desperation is the first enemy of an activist, and inattention makes the enemy change. Freedom is valuable and the other’s freedom is an indivisible part of the self-freedom.
Translated by: ANHRI 17/9/2005