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Alkarama Foundation
Founded 2004
Founders Abderrahman Al Nuaimi, Rachid Mesli, Abbas Aroua
Type NGO
Swiss Foundation (2007)
Focus Extrajudicial killings
Enforced disappreances
Arbitrary detention
Area served
Arab world
Key people
Mourad Dhina, Executive Director Rachid Mesli, Legal Director
Mission To assist all those in the Arab World subjected to or at risk for the most severe of human rights violations

Alkarama (Arabic: الكرامة لحقوق الإنسان‎ / ISO 233: al-karāmah li-ḥuqūq al-’insān / English: Dignity) is an independent Swiss-based human rights non-governmental organization established in 2004 to assist all those in the Arab World subjected to, or at risk for, extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, and arbitrary detention. Acting as a bridge between individual victims in the Arab World and international human rights mechanisms, Alkarama works towards an Arab World where all individuals live free, with dignity, and protected by the rule of law.



Alkarama is an NGO defending the victims of human rights violations in the Arab world – including violations of the right to life, to physical and mental integrity, and to Civil and Political Rights – by using in priority international law mechanisms. Alkarama also helps to promote a culture of human rights in the Arab world.

Although it recognises the indivisibility of human rights, Alkarama has given priority to the defence of people subjected or at risk of extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, torture, and arbitrary detention, as Alkarama regards these violations of the right to life, physical integrity, and civil and political rights as common in this region.

To end these violations, Alkarama cooperates with local and national civil society activists and international organisations for the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as governments and other entities likely to act on the human rights situation.

By engaging international mechanisms, Alkarama offers support and a last resort to the victims of these human rights violations, so that they achieve respect for their rights against the failure or inefficiency of their country's justice system.

Alkarama also works for a strong international system of human rights protection, which reinforces the regional, national, and local protection systems. In, particular, it contributes to fill the information gaps, and to increase the attention of international human rights protection mechanisms on human rights violations taking place in the Arab World. Alkarama encourages States to strengthen their national laws to defend and promote human rights.

Finally, Alkarama contributes to the promotion of the culture of human rights, by ensuring that the various groups that make up the civil society in these countries are familiar with the concept of human rights and are mobilising around it, know their rights and claim them, and feel protected by law.

Through its projects, Alkarama provides these actors the necessary tools so that they can assert their rights both nationally and internationally.


1. Document and denounce human rights violations in the Arab world

2. Provide moral and judicial assistance to the victims of human rights violations

3. Pursue the perpetrators of human rights violations and fight impunity

4. Encourage, and campaign for governments to respect human rights

5. Spread the culture of human rights in Arab societies

6. Train human rights defenders

7. Support any initiative which reinforces the protection of citizens against human rights violations

8. Be an effective organization


Alkarama focuses on the most serious human rights violations, i.e. violations that relate to the right to life, human dignity, bodily integrity and freedom. The idea behind Alkarama's specific mandate is that only when citizens are free from the most serious human rights abuses that individuals can freely and effectively call for all of their rights and ensure the rule of law in their countries.

(i) Extrajudicial Killings[edit]

According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR):

Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions intervenes on cases of executions outside the legal framework or without the proper legal safeguards: capital punishment following an unfair trial, deaths in custody, deaths due to excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, deaths due to attacks by States security forces, violations of the right to life in armed conflict, genocide, and the imminent expulsion of persons to a country where their lives are in danger.

(ii) Enforced Disappearance[edit]

According to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED):

Enforced disappearance is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.

A tool of repression

Many of the governments of the Arab World use disappearances to silence opposition members and terrorise the population.

Algeria is a notable example of this practice. Alkarama has presented over 1,000 cases of disappearances to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID). The number of disappeared in Algeria is estimated at between 10,000 and 20,000 – the Algerian government admitted to 6,164 in 2005; the Algerian national human rights institution, the Commission Nationale Consultative de Promotion et de Protection des Droits de l'Homme (CNCPPDH) to 8,023.

(iii) Torture[edit]

According to the Convention against Torture (CAT):

Torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Upon receipt of information about cases of torture from its representatives and civil society contacts in the Arab world, Alkarama writes a communication to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture (SRT) with details of the case.

(iv) Arbitrary Detention[edit]

According to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD):

Deprivation of liberty is arbitrary if the case falls into one of the following three categories:

1. When it is clearly impossible to invoke any legal basis justifying the deprivation of liberty [...] (Category I)

2. When the deprivation of liberty results from the exercise of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, insofar as States parties are concerned, by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Category II)

3. When the total or partial non-observance of the international norms relating to the right to a fair trial spelled out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the relevant international instruments accepted by the States concerned, is of such gravity as to give the deprivation of liberty an arbitrary character (Category III). (WGAD, Fact Sheet No. 26)

Arbitrary Detention in the Arab World: the United Nation's Opinion

Arab governments often arrest and detain political opponents and human rights defenders in order to quiet their criticism of government policies and behaviour. The opinions issued by the WGAD can then be used in local and international advocacy against these detentions, be brought up with the governments and authorities directly, and can lead to enough pressure to have these individuals released in some cases. Many governments are very sensitive to their international image and human rights record.


2004: Creation of Alkarama[edit]

Alkarama was created as a Swiss association in July 2004 by Qatari and Algerian human rights defenders – Aderrahman Al Naimy, Rachid Mesli and Abbas Aroua – to contribute to an Arab World where all individuals live free, in dignity, and protected by the rule of law. With this goal in mind, the founders decided to address the most serious violations of human dignity, physical integrity and freedom, namely extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary detention, with the hope that individuals who no longer fear being subjected to these violations can speak and act freely to call for their rights and ensure the rule of law in their countries.

At the time of Alkarama's creation, the United Nations (UN) mechanisms established to protect human rights worldwide rarely acted upon violations in the Arab region. Identifying this gap, Alkarama decided that in order to bring these violations to an end, Alkarama would act through the UN’s mechanisms specific to bring these human rights violations to an end. In doing so, Alkarama would also fulfill its objective to contribute to a better understanding of human rights and raise awareness of the UN's human rights protection mechanisms in the Arab civil society, including amongst social groups who often viewed these instruments as ineffective or understood rights as Western concepts, in particular Islamist groups, political opposition parties, and journalists.

By acting as a bridge between the victims in the Arab world and the UN Special Procedures experts, whilst building the capacity of local activists to directly access UN mechanisms and use the decisions they adopt to call for the respect of human rights in their countries, Alkarama gave itself the means to achieve its two main objectives simultaneously. This involves speaking directly and regularly with victims and their families, lawyers, or local activists to document individual cases of human rights violations; and submitting these cases to the UN mechanisms for them to request the relevant government authorities to remedy to the situation.

Between 2004 and 2007, Rachid Mesli, at the time Alkarama's sole employee in Geneva, submitted around 400 individual cases to the UN Special Procedures, leading to these mechanisms' action with a number of Arab States, and a noticeable improvement of the situation for many of the victims. Following up on its successes and growing needs, in 2005 Alkarama recruited Country Representatives in Lebanon and Yemen in order to follow the human rights situation in these countries and document further cases of violations to submit to the UN. Alkarama's website was launched the same year.

2007: Alkarama Foundation[edit]

In April 2007, in the face of an ever-increasing workload and in order to undertake the necessary changes in capital and human resources, Alkarama registers as a Foundation under Swiss law. This change in status aimed to ensure greater stability and transparency, by enabling the Swiss authorities to review the organisation's financial records on a yearly basis.

2007: Working with UN Treaty Bodies[edit]

As of 2007, Alkarama began working with the UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies – in particular the Committee Against Torture (CAT), the Human Rights Committee (HRCttee) and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) instituted by the newly established Human Rights Council (HRC) – by submitting alternative information regarding the Arab State's implementation of the relevant treaties at every stage of their review process. In doing so, Alkarama provides the CAT and HRCttee expert, as well as members of the (HRC) access to information from civil society actors as well as concrete cases of violations of numerous articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

2009: Working to strengthen national human rights institutions[edit]

In 2009, facing the increasingly negative roles played by National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), Alkarama begins providing independent information from local civil society actors about these institutions to the International Coordinating Committee on (ICC-NHRIs), which regularly reviews the status of these institutions, resulting in a number of reforms within these institutions.

2009: Launch of the Alkarama Award for Human Rights Defenders[edit]

Also in 2009, Alkarama launched the Alkarama Award for Human Rights Defenders, a symbolic reward attributed every year to an individual or organisation that has significantly contributed to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Arab world (to read more about the Award and the previous laureates, click here). Through this award, Alkarama was able to fulfill two objectives: to bring attention to the work of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in the Arab world, whilst providing the UN, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the media, and the general public an opportunity to learn about the individual heroes struggling for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Arab region.

2011 (During the "Arab Spring" and after): Acting as a major relay of information[edit]

As the events of 2011 began to unfold in the Arab World, Alkarama stood alongside those calling for the respect of their rights and became a major relay of information for the UN mechanisms and the media, on the uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and then Syria. With Country Representatives in Egypt, Lebanon and Yemen, as well as several visits to Libya, Alkarama was able to closely monitor the violations occurring, reporting them in real time whilst raising awareness amongst the new groups rising to power of their obligation to respect human rights.

2012-2013: Reprisals against Alkarama[edit]

Alkarama's action, documenting and denouncing violations, has made many States in, or with interests in the region resent its work, which has led to reprisals against our organisation (smear campaigns, trials, and arrests of members, accusations that the organisation was pro-Israeli, pro-Qatari, protecting terrorists, or supporting political groups and other contradictory accusations). Some of the smear campaigns have also targeted some of Alkarama's Founding Members or Staff, in their own capacity and not necessarily because of their relation with Alkarama. Alkarama unambiguously and irrevocably denies all these accusations, but the Foundation can only work in a spirit of full transparency. You can find details of its two cases below.

2012: Arrest and detention of Mourad Dhina in Paris

In 2012, Alkarama's Executive Director, Dr Mourad Dhina, who had openly called for democratic change in Algeria for years was detained in France for six months on a request from the Algerian authorities to have him extradited to the country. The French court released him when they received documents from the Algerian authorities, which were so incoherent and lacking any evidence that the French prosecutor qualified them as "grotesque". Dr. Dhina returned to Alkarama after having spent almost 6 months at the Prison de la Santé in Paris.

2013: Listing of Alkarama's Founder, Dr. Al Nuaimy, by the United States Department of the Treasury

Alkarama Today[edit]

Alkarama today is made up of nine full-time employees in Geneva, and three representatives in the Arab World. It also trains about 10 interns per year in its Legal or Media Departments.

Although founded in 2004 as a society, since 2007 Alkarama has been a registered Swiss Foundation.

Alkarama is a trilingual organisation, publishing material in Arabic, English and French.

Alleged link to terrorist groups[edit]

Abd al- Rahman Omair Al Naimi, one of Alkarama's three founding members was designated as a "Specially Designated Terrorist" and financier of Al Qaida and other terrorist organisations by the U.S. Treasury Department in Decemenber 2013.[1][2] Al Naimi denied the characterisation as a political attack "because of my [Al Naimi's] publicly declared opposition to U.S. policies in the Arab world and, in particular in the Gulf area since the invasion of Iraq in 2003."[3] Al Naimi announced later that month he would resign as president, but the Foundation Council voted in January 2014 to reverse its earlier support and reject his resignation.[4]

Also listed by the Treasury Department is Abdul Wahab Al-Humaiqani, one of Alkarama's founding members[5] and current secretary general of Yemen's Rashad Party. The Treasury cites him as both a financier and official representative of the Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula subgroup,[1][6] and said that his and Al Naimi's activities are connected. reported that Al Humaiqani "said the US might want to punish him to his active role with Al Karama Foundation that campaigns against US drone strikes that have killed many civilians in Yemen."[6] While Al Naimi noted, but did not mention any association with, Al Humaiqani in his press release,[3] there has been no official response on Alkarama's website as of January 2014. Yemen's president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi has given his support to Al Humaiqani and asked that the U.S. government substantiate its claims.[7]


  1. ^ a b Treasury Designates Al-Qa'ida Supporters in Qatar and Yemen. U.S. Department of the Treasury 18 December 2013, retrieved 16 January 2014.
  2. ^ US adds Qatari human rights advocate to ‘terrorist’ watch list, DohaNews 22 December 2013, retrieved 14 January 2014.
  3. ^ a b Press release by Dr Abd al-Rahman Omair Alnaimi
  4. ^ Press Release by the Council of the Alkarama Foundation, 8 January 2014, retrieved 16 January 2014.
  5. ^ He is named as a founding member and Alkarama's Yemen branch spokesperson in a 2011 Alkarama news post, but he has not been mentioned by the group since then.
  6. ^ a b Yemen refuses to extradite politician sought by US. GulfNews 6 January 2014, retrieved 16 January 2014.
  7. ^ Yemen president’s US snub 'aimed for Salafists', YemenOnline 7 January 2014, retrieved 16 January 2014.


External links[edit]