Transnational repression in the MENA: the role of regional organisations engaged in counter-terrorism

July 04, 2024

In this analysis, MENA Rights Group explains how regional organisations enable human rights violations in the MENA region through abusive counter-terrorism frameworks. The paper particularly focuses on the Arab Interior Ministers' Council, and outlines recommendations to address the human rights concerns posed by this Arab League body.

The national flags of countries members of Arab League with its symbol. © Maxx-Studio, licensed under Shutterstock.

1. Abstract

In the MENA region, regional organisations play a crucial role in transnational repression by enabling human rights violations through the implementation of abusive counter-terrorism (CT) laws and policies. Many regional legal instruments related to CT contain definitions of terrorism that are inconsistent with international human rights law and establish judicial cooperation frameworks lacking adequate safeguards regarding extradition, thereby posing significant threats to the peaceful exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

This briefing paper focuses on the Arab Interior Ministers’ Council (AIMC), a body within the League of Arab States, highlighting its role in facilitating politically motivated extradition of individuals accused of terrorism offenses. The AIMC's practices violate international human rights standards, denying individuals the opportunity to file access requests or demand the removal of arrest warrants, and lacking oversight mechanisms to prevent system abuse.

Furthermore, the opaque collaboration between United Nations (UN) CT bodies and the AIMC, characterised by a lack of meaningful civil society inclusion, human rights monitoring, or impact assessments, raises significant concerns over the UN potentially enabling the AIMC’s human rights violations under the pretext of CT.

This briefing paper was submitted as a response to a call for input to inform the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism’s thematic report on the protection of human rights by regional organisations when countering terrorism to be presented to the UN General Assembly in October 2024.

2. Regional legal framework

2.1 Overly vague and broad definitions of terrorism and terrorist offenses

There are several regional CT instruments, each containing definitions of terrorism, including the League of Arab States (LAS)’ 1998 Arab Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism (Arab CT Convention), the LAS’ 2010 Arab Convention on Combating Money-Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism (Arab Terrorism Financing Convention), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)’s 2004 Convention of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf on Combating Terrorism (GCC CT Convention), and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)’s 1999 Convention of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference on Combating International Terrorism (OIC CT Convention).

Each one defines terrorist offenses in broad and vague terms. In the LAS, article 1 (2) of the Arab CT Convention defines terrorism as “any act or threat of violence, whatever its motives or purposes, that occurs in the advancement of an individual or collective criminal agenda and seeking to sow panic among people, causing fear by harming them, or placing their lives, liberty or security in danger, or seeking to cause damage to the environment or to public or private installations or property or to occupying or seizing them, or seeking to jeopardise a national resource”. The Arab Terrorism Financing Convention, which aims to “strengthen measures aimed at suppressing money-laundering and the financing of terrorism and to foster Arab cooperation in that regard”, defines the financing of terrorism as the “collection, provision or transfer, directly or indirectly, of funds in the knowledge that they will be used in full or part to finance terrorism”.

The GCC CT Convention defines “terrorism” in its article 1(2) as “any act of violence or threat thereof, not-withstanding its motives or intentions, perpetrated to carry out an individual or collective criminal plan with the aim of terrorizing or harming people or imperilling their lives, freedom or security, or endangering the environment, any facility or any public or private property or occupying or seizing them, or attacking a national resource”. It defines a “terrorist offense” in its article 1(3) as “any offense or criminal attempt committed in order to realise a terrorist objective in any of the Contracting States or against its assets or interests, or its nationals or their property (…) or incitement to commit a terrorist act or the promotion or defence of such acts, or the promotion, printing, publication or possession of any documents or recordings of whatsoever nature intended for distribution or shown to others with a view to promoting or defending such offences”, as well as “[t]he supply or collection of funds of any kind with the aim of financing terrorist acts”. It also defines “activity to support and finance terrorism” in its article 1(4) as “any activity involving the collection, receipt, delivery, allocation, transportation or transfer of funds or of the proceeds of such funds with a view to facilitating the commission by an individual or group of a terrorist act within or outside the territory of a country, or banking or commercial transactions carried out in support of such acts or the perpetrators thereof, or the direct or indirect acquisition of funds with a view to drawing benefit from such acts, defending or promoting ideas, setting up training camps or supplying weapons or false documents, or providing any other type of assistance or funds in full knowledge of the purposes for which they are intended”.

The OIC CT Convention defines “terrorism” in its article 1(2) as “any act of violence or threat thereof notwithstanding its motives or intentions perpetrated to carry out an individual or collective criminal plan with the aim of terrorizing people or threatening to harm them or imperilling their lives, honour, freedoms, security or rights or exposing the environment or any facility or public or private property to hazards or occupying or seizing them, or endangering a national resource, or international facilities, or threatening the stability, territorial integrity, political unity or sovereignty of independent States”, and “terrorist crime” in its article 1(3) as “any crime executed, started or participated in to realise a terrorist objective in any of the Contracting States or against its nationals, assets or interests or foreign facilities and nationals residing in its territory”. It is noteworthy that as part of its 2025 Programme of Action, the OIC plans to “revisit” its 1999 CT Convention “to lay down proper mechanisms to counter the new trends of terrorism”.

As such, regional definitions of terrorism and terrorist offenses leave space for wide interpretation, which may lead to the criminalisation of acts falling under fundamental freedoms protected by international law.

Additionally, the above-mentioned instruments defer to Member States’ domestic definitions of terrorism to define the scope of terrorism offenses (see: article 1(3) of the Arab CT Convention; article 1(3) of the GCC CT Convention; article 1(3) of the OIC CT Convention). This is particularly concerning as a number of Arab states’ domestic CT laws have been criticised by the former UN Special Rapporteur on CT and human rights for containing similarly problematic definitions of terrorism and for their overall lack of human rights compliance, including in Qatar, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and Tunisia.

2.2 Regional judicial cooperation and lack of adequate safeguards regarding extradition

The 1983 Riyadh Arab Agreement for Judicial Cooperation (Riyadh Convention), adopted and endorsed by the Council of Arab Ministers of Justice, aims to facilitate judicial cooperation between its 18 signatory Arab countries, which include Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the UAE, and Yemen. Additionally, article 5 of the Arab CT Convention, article 19 of the CGG CT Convention and article 5 of the OIC CT Convention foresee the extradition of individuals accused of terrorist offenses to requesting states.

The Riyadh Convention contains several exceptions under which extradition cannot be carried out, including if “the crime for which extradition is requested is considered by the laws of the requested party as a crime of a political nature”. Despite this prohibition of extradition for political offences, the assessment of the political nature of the crime is left to the discretion of the requested country. In addition, the Convention excludes a number of offences from being defined as political, notably assaults on kings and presidents as well as robberies committed against individuals or authorities.

Similarly, article 6(a) of the Arab CT Convention, article 20(a) of the CGG CT Convention and article 6(1) of the OIC CT Convention prohibit extradition for political offenses. However, the three conventions exclude from these offenses attacks on kings, heads of states, crown princes, vice-presidents, heads of government or ministers of any State parties, as well as all acts falling within the scope of the Conventions respective definitions of terrorism (see: article 2(b) of the Arab CT Convention; article 2(b) of the GCC CT Convention; articles 2(b) and 2(c) of the OIC CT Convention). Moreover, while the Arab Terrorism Financing Convention foresees extradition for offenses contained in the Convention or in Member States’ domestic law, it does not make any mention of exceptions to such extraditions, including for political offenses.

As such, the restrictive interpretation of political offences found in the Arab CT Convention, the Riyadh Convention, the GCC CT Convention and the OIC CT Convention, as well as the absence of any mention of the prohibition of extradition on political grounds in the Arab Terrorism Financing Convention, allow for transnational repression through the extradition of individuals on political grounds, which is inconsistent with international human rights standards. We also find it concerning that, despite all LAS Member States being parties to the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT), which guarantees that no one should be returned to a country where they would face torture, these conventions do not refer to the non-refoulement obligation enshrined in article 3 UNCAT and article 5 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

3. The Arab Interior Ministers’ Council (AIMC)

3.1 The AIMC’s mandate, structure and legal framework

The Arab Interior Ministers’ Council (AIMC) is a specialised Ministerial Council of the League of Arab States tasked with developing and strengthening cooperation and coordinating efforts between Arab countries in the field of internal security and prevention of crime. The AIMC's current Secretary General, Mohammad bin Ali Kuman, is a Saudi national who has held the post since 2001, with his term of office systematically renewed every three years.

The AIMC’s General Secretariat, acting as its technical and administrative body, is located in Tunis, Tunisia. The Arab Office for Combating Extremism and Terrorism, one of the five specialised offices of the AIMC, is based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Regarding its legal framework, the AIMC is in charge of monitoring the implementation of the Arab CT Convention. It also finds its legal basis in the Riyadh Convention, which enables the Council to circulate warrants at the request of states parties to the Convention. Article 57 of the Riyadh Convention provides that the contracting parties should “undertake coordination of extradition request procedures” with the “Arab Organisation for Social Defense Against Crime (Arab Criminal Police Bureau), through the liaison offices concerned.” This Arab Bureau of Criminal Police was replaced by the Department of Criminal Prosecution and Data within the General Secretariat of the AIMC through the Resolution No. 667 of the Council dated 13 March 2013.

The AIMC also has Basic Laws, adopted by the LAS in 1982, which do not make reference to any human rights standards, nor do they grant individuals the right to file an access request or to demand the removal of arrest warrants diffused against them. Similarly, they do not mention standards of procedure regarding the circulation of arrest warrants or human rights standards.

3.2 The AIMC’s circulation of arrest warrants in the MENA region

The AIMC can circulate state-requested warrants to LAS Member States, thus facilitating the apprehension and extradition of persons notably wanted on terrorism charges. However, as mentioned above, the domestic CT laws at the basis of these warrants and the regional legal framework governing its operations pose a number of human rights concerns. Targeted individuals do not have the possibility to file access requests or to demand the removal of arrest warrants diffused against them, and there is no oversight mechanism filtering out abuses of its systems.

The responsibility of circulating the warrants lies with the Department of Criminal Prosecution and Data within the General Secretariat. This Department is tasked with various counterterrorism functions, including facilitating cooperation among Arab nations to apprehend fugitive terrorists, coordinating the exchange of terrorism-related information between Arab countries, receiving and circulating requests warrants for persons accused or convicted of terrorist offenses, regularly updating and sharing the list of individuals involved in “planning, executing, or financing terrorist acts” with Member States, enriching the General Secretariat's database of terrorist operatives with pertinent data, and making this database accessible to Member States.

In 2016, the Department of Prosecution and Criminal Data reportedly issued over a thousand search warrants reported to the AIMC by Member States, including 80 warrants aiming to locate individuals wanted for terrorist acts. In 2017, Secretary-General Muhammad bin Ali Koman announced that AIMC had developed a new application introducing an electronic mechanism for generating search warrants in an effort to locate wanted individuals, this streamlined process aiming to minimise the search duration upon data input.

In order to facilitate the tracking and apprehension of wanted individuals, the General Secretariat reportedly holds a database containing information on individuals wanted for alleged criminal activities across its Member States, including acts of terrorism. This database, notably populated with data from Member States, contains wanted individuals’ personal information as well as alleged insights into the methodologies employed for acts of terrorism, among other crimes.

The AIMC reportedly established a Legal Committee tasked with reviewing Member States’ requests to issue search warrants, assessing their alignment with approved standards and mechanisms, and addressing objections raised against search warrants issued by countries, the individuals being sought, or their legal representatives. Although the scope of the Legal Committee's mandate suggests the possibility of an individual's right to challenge an arrest warrant, the actual process for doing so is uncertain and seems to lack accessibility. Further, the composition of this Legal Committee includes representative from Member States, giving rise to apprehensions about the impartiality and independence of its functioning.

While the AIMC’s warrant circulation appears similar to the practices of INTERPOL, the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF) can, at the request of individuals, remove a red notice if found to be in violation of INTERPOL’s constitution and rules, and it should then be deleted from the organisation’s systems. Similarly, the Notices and Diffusions Task Force, an institution established by INTERPOL’s Secretary General in 2016, may also unilaterally review red notices on the basis of all available information, including information received from member countries other than the requesting country, and media monitoring. In the case of the AIMC, should a review mechanism be established, it would be undermined by the lack of reference to human rights standards in the AIMC’s basic laws.

3.3 Individual cases of victims of the AIMC and concerns raised by UN experts

In practice, MENA Rights Group has documented the cases of individuals who have faced politically motivated extradition proceedings as a result of the AIMC’s circulation of their arrest warrants.

Among them, Sherif Osman, a U.S.-Egyptian political commentator, faced extradition to Egypt while visiting the UAE; Khalaf al-Romaithi, an Emirati peaceful political opponent and member of the UAE94 and UAE84, was extradited outside any judicial process from Jordan to the UAE; and Hassan al-Rabea, a member of the Saudi Shi’a religious minority, was deported from Morocco to Saudi Arabia, in violation of the principle of non-refoulement. The former Special Rapporteur on CT and human rights and other UN experts have notably highlighted the unlawful character of the extradition proceedings faced by al-Rabea and Osman.

As demonstrated through these cases, the AIMC’s systems are being used to persecute peaceful political activists and persecuted minority members putting them at risk of torture and other human rights violations in the requesting states. We believe that the issuance of politicised arrest warrants without any prior and continuous oversight may lead to violations of the rights to freedom of belief, opinion, expression and peaceful assembly enshrined in articles 18, 19 and 20 UDHR, 18, 19, 21, 22 ICCPR as well as articles 24 and 32 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights. It is also noteworthy that article 28 of the Arab Charter explicitly prohibits the extradition of political refugees.

The human rights concerns posed by the AIMC’s operations have been highlighted by UN Special Procedures mandate holders in a communication addressed to the LAS, and identified as a key regional issue in the former Special Rapporteur on CT and human rights’ Global Study on the Impact of CT Measures on Civil Society and Civic Space.

3.4 The Arab Regional Counter-Terrorism Strategy and UN Counter-Terrorism bodies’ collaboration with the AIMC

An important area of concern is UN CT bodies’ active collaboration with the AIMC. In 2018, the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) and AIMC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). In 2019, during the AIMC’s 36th annual session in their headquarters in Tunis, UNCCT launched the project “Supporting the Development and Implementation of a Regional Counter-Terrorism Strategy for the Arab World”, jointly with the AIMC. Since 2019, the UNCCT has provided technical assistance to support the AIMC in developing and implementing an Arab Regional Counter-Terrorism Strategy (Arab CT Strategy). Adopted in 2022, the Strategy is stated to be in line with the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (GCTS), and MENA Rights Group has been assured on several occasions by UN CT bodies it has engaged with that it aligns with international human rights standards, as opposed to previous versions of the Arab Strategy to Combat terrorism developed in 1997 and updated in 2015.

In this regard, MRG has consulted the former Special Rapporteur on CT and human rights, who confirmed that as a general matter, her mandate would comment on all relevant UN Global CT Coordination Compact matters with a human rights element, including national or regional CT strategies submitted to the Global Compact for review and inputs. Human rights inputs would always be offered by the mandate holder, particularly where her mandate had provided public commentary on the countries or region in question as is the case for the Arab region. However, she stated that she could not confirm if these changes were taken into account and cannot as such affirm that the strategy is human rights compliant. She clarified that it was not the practice of her office to designate CT strategies shared with other UN bodies as human rights compliant, and that consultation with her office would not be a basis for that designation. To date, the Strategy is not public and remains inaccessible to civil society.

UNCCT’s partnership with AIMC has also transpired through its close ties with the AIMC’s academic branch, the Naif Arab University for Security Sciences (NAUSS). In October 2021, UNCCT signed a MoU with NAUSS to enhance cooperation in areas of common interest to combat terrorism and prevent extremism. In November 2021, UNCCT conducted a training course on countering the financing of terrorism in conjunction with NAUSS, notably involving over 20 Saudi representatives from law enforcement and regulatory authorities. In September 2022, UNOCT participated in a regional forum on combatting money laundering and terrorist financing, co-organised by NAUSS and held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. In February 2023, UNCCT’s Director Jehangir Khan made an official visit at NAUSS’ campus during which he held discussions on the collaboration with the university and avenues to further develop their partnership.

In April 2024, a "Regional Capacity Building Workshop on Combating the Financing of Terrorism", falling within the framework of the implementation of the Arab CT Strategy, was held in Riyadh. The 3-day event was organised by NAUSS, in cooperation with the General Secretariat of the AIMC and UNOCT, and reportedly discussed “increased regional cooperation in the Arab region”.

Other UN CT bodies also actively engage with the AIMC and its academic body. The UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) is invited to and regularly attends the AIMC’s annual sessions. In 2022, the CTED held a high-level seminar on “Cross-Regional Trends on the Nexus between Organized Crime and Terrorism” in collaboration with NAUSS. David Scharia, the Chief of the CTED’s Technical Expertise and Research Branch, highlighted CTED’s commitment to further enhance its partnership with academia and other entities, including NAUSS. NAUSS is a member of the CTED’s Global Research Network (GRN), a “network of think tanks and research institutions aiming to strengthen CTED’s research and analysis capabilities” and help CTED “keep abreast of emerging terrorism trends and challenges”. Seeing that the GRN seemingly lacks human rights-focused civil society organisations among its membership, MENA Rights Group has tried several times to join the network, to no avail.  

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) also holds a partnership with the AIMC since both entities signed a MoU in April 2000. Their long-standing partnership notably aims to cooperate in preventing and addressing terrorism, particularly through strengthened criminal justice responses. UNODC holds observer status at the opening of AIMC’s annual sessions and delivers technical expertise in areas such as prison reform or management of violent extremist prisoners. Within its Regional Framework for the Arab States 2023-2028, UNODC expressed its readiness to enhance cooperation and expand collaboration with AIMC and support a reinvigorated MoU. UNODC also expressed its willingness to explore opportunities for joint technical assistance across the MENA region with AIMC, citing NAUSS as a prime partner in the various areas of UNODC’s mandate. Furthermore, UNODC notably joined the AIMC’s 26th Arab Conference on Combatting Terrorism, in November 2023, engaging in discussions about “pertinent strategies, emerging threats, and priorities for technical assistance” in the MENA region. In October 2023, a training held in Vienna focusing on open-source intelligence in the investigation of terrorism-related cases while ensuring the protection of human rights was conducted in collaboration with NAUSS and was designed for law enforcement officers from Saudi Arabia.

3.5 MENA Rights Group’s experience in engaging with UN Counter-Terrorism bodies about the AIMC

After having conducted research on the human rights concerns raised by the AIMC’s CT framework and operations, MENA Rights Group initiated engagement with different UN CT bodies cooperating with the AIMC in an effort to raise key human rights concerns and inquire as to which steps the UN bodies could undertake to address them.

When MENA Rights Group brought forward its human rights concerns regarding the AIMC and the Arab CT Strategy, the response of these bodies fell short of meaningful action. They resorted to evasive tactics, such as deflecting responsibility to colleagues or other entities, attributing issues to a lack of capacity, asserting their hands were tied due to a lack of monitoring mandate, or even overtly claiming that human rights were not part of their mandate and that civil society efforts to raise these human rights concerns to them should be ceased. During their meetings, staff of UN bodies tended to dominate discussions and monopolise the floor, employing a fast-paced, bureaucratically-laden discourse that created the perception of a rushed and imbalanced conversation. This approach not only stifled MENA Rights Group’s ability to adequately express concerns but also conveyed an impression of performative engagement, seemingly aimed at swiftly concluding discussions while superficially ticking the box of civil society engagement.

Importantly, despite claims by UNOCT that the Arab CT Strategy does “not aim to be confidential” and that it should be made accessible eventually, the Strategy has never been made public, and none of the UN CT bodies have agreed to share a copy of the Strategy with MENA Rights Group. Additionally, different UN bodies have provided MENA Rights Group with inconsistent and at times conflicting accounts of the content of the Strategy.

As a result, the content of the Strategy remains unknown and inaccessible to civil society, rendering them unable to conduct an independent, first-hand assessment of the Strategy’s compliance with human rights standard. Earlier versions of the strategy are not public either, apart from a summary, so it is impossible for MENA Rights Group to verify whether human rights standards have been effectively incorporated into the 2022 version. Importantly, UNOCT staff have informed MENA Rights Group that the UN will not be conducting an impact assessment of the Strategy, citing that the project is not large enough. As such, the UNCCT continues to collaborate with the AIMC as part of their technical assistance regarding their Strategy, without being able to monitor or assess its impact on human rights in practice.

3.6 The AIMC’s partnership with INTERPOL

In 1999, the AIMC and INTERPOL signed a MoU providing a scope of cooperation including exchange of information, mutual consultation and coordination, database access, and technical cooperation in criminal matters and other matters of interest. Article 2 of the MoU states that “Interpol and AIMC General Secretariat shall ensure full and prompt exchange of non-nominal information and documents concerning matters of common interest.” The agreement’s preamble emphasises “the role of the police authorities in maintaining law and order with due respect for human rights”.

In 2022, INTERPOL and AIMC adopted a cooperation agreement in view of broadening their scope of cooperation, avoiding a duplication of effort in the implementation of their respective mandates and projects and establishing a clear legal framework for the exchange of data between the two organisations, in order to facilitate the prevention and suppression of ordinary law crimes in the Arab region and globally. INTERPOL also signed a cooperation agreement with NAUSS in 2011, in view of “cooperating to strengthen the training activities for police officers”.

According to information provided to MENA Rights Group by INTERPOL’s spokesperson, INTERPOL and the AIMC each have their own database and corresponding legal framework, and neither organisation can dictate to the other what action to take in relation to wanted persons. If AIMC member countries communicate with the AIMC or use its channels in relation to individuals, INTERPOL is not involved in any way, nor can it intervene. INTERPOL claims that it does not work on notices or diffusions directly with the AIMC, the reference to ‘technical cooperation’ in the MoU simply reflecting standard language for memoranda of understanding and agreements. MENA Rights Group has attempted to engage in further dialogue with INTERPOL, to no avail.

3.7 The influence of Saudi Arabia on the AIMC and the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism

Saudi Arabia, which has one of the most problematic CT frameworks and practices in the region, is a key actor of the AIMC. The AIMC’s Secretary General, who was held his position since 2001, is a Saudi national. The AIMC’s specialised Office for Combating Extremism and Terrorism is based in Riyadh. Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Interior, is the current Chairperson of AIMC’s academic branch, the Naif Arab University for Security Sciences (NAUSS). Mohammad Bin Ali Kuman, the Secretary General of the AIMC, is also a member of NAUSS’ Supreme Council.

In parallel, Saudi Arabia, largest donor of the UNCCT and Chair to its Advisory Board, has played a central role in the AIMC’s collaboration with UNCCT/UNOCT. The UNCCT and AIMC’s 2018 MoU was signed by Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the UNOCT and Executive Director of the UNCCT, and Adel al-Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia. In January 2023, Saudi Arabia provided 300,000 USD of funding to the UNCCT for the implementation of the AIMC’s 2022 Arab Regional CT Strategy. For reference, the budget for the UNCCT’s technical assistance to AIMC in the development and implementation of the Arab Strategy reportedly amounted to $921,023 for the period from 1 January 2019 to 31 March 2022 (ongoing at the time of publication of the 2021 annual report).

As such, the heavy influence of Saudi Arabia on the AIMC and the UN CT architecture is an additional cause of concern, as it renders the prioritisation of compliance with human rights standards even more unlikely.

3.8 The AIMC’s lack of civil society engagement and inclusion

Regarding the participation of civil society, the AIMC’s meetings are closed, their meeting agendas are not announced in advance and their documentation is not publicly accessible. Therefore, there is no accessible information regarding measures implemented to check and filter out abuses of its systems, and it is generally very difficult for human rights organisations to engage with them. MENA Rights Group has attempted to reach out to AIMC to share their analysis and human rights concerns about their operations, but received no response. MENA Rights Group has requested from UN CT bodies actively engaging with the AIMC to request for civil society involvement in AIMC conferences and meetings, but the Council does not seem open to such inclusion. Instead, the AIMC reportedly invites National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), many of which lack independence and compliance with the Paris Principles, including in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. MENA Rights Group has asked  UN CT bodies to help put them in contact with the AIMC, to no avail.

4. Other bodies of regional organisations posing a threat to human rights

4.1 The Gulf Cooperation Council Police (GCCPOL)

The Gulf Cooperation Council Police (GCCPOL) is an administrative organisation affiliated with the General Secretariat of the GCC, with headquarters located in Abu Dhabi. It was established in 2014 at the 35th session of the GCC in Doha, and began its activities in 2016. Operating in the six GCC Member States, the police organisation’s stated mission is to combat terrorism and organised crime by linking police agencies in the GCC countries, which include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The GCCPOL also aims to build partnerships with regional and international police organisations to ensure effectiveness in combatting crimes. The GCCPOL notably signed a MoU with INTERPOL with the aim to facilitate exchange of information between both entities. In practice, GCCPOL can be used by authorities to locate individuals who are wanted within the Gulf region and seek their extradition.

4.2 The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Centre for Police Cooperation and Coordination (CPCC)

The OIC Centre For Police Cooperation And Coordination (CPCC), the establishment of which is underway, is aimed at being a specialised institution of the OIC, which is headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The proposal to establish and operationalise the CPCC was adopted in 2016 during the OIC’s 13th Islamic Summit, and its Statute was adopted at the 45th Session of the Council of the Foreign Ministers in 2018. Recently, during the OIC’s 15th Islamic Summit Conference held in Banjul in May 2024, OIC Member States were called on to “expedite the signing and ratification” of the Statute. Saudi Arabia is among Member States who have acceded to the Statute.

The CPCC’s stated aims include ensuring communication and cooperation in combating terrorism and violent extremism “in all its forms and manifestations” within the OIC, and enhance the institutional capacities of, cooperation among, and exchange of information between police organisations of OIC Member States. For reference, MENA states members of the OIC include Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the UAE, and Yemen.

5. Conclusion and recommendations

In conclusion, and in light of the above-mentioned considerations, MENA Rights Group calls on the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism to:

  • Call on regional organisations to amend their counter-terrorism legal frameworks in view of complying with international human rights standards, including by amending their overly broad and vague definitions of terrorism and adequately prohibiting politically motivated extraditions;

  • Encourage the LAS and the AIMC to respond to UN Special Procedures’ communication No. OL OTH 71/2023;

  • Call on the AIMC to grant individuals the possibility to file access requests or to demand the removal of arrest warrants diffused against them, and to establish an oversight mechanism aimed at filtering out abuses of its systems;

  • Urge the AIMC and other regional bodies to prioritise meaningful engagement with independent, human rights-focused civil society;

  • Call on the AIMC to disclose the 2022 Arab Regional Counter-Terrorism Strategy;

  • Address the concerns raised about the AIMC and other regional organisations and bodies in the MENA region with relevant UN CT bodies and to INTERPOL, and urge them to establish effective and independent human rights oversight mechanisms and conduct impact assessments over their collaboration, notably with the assistance of UN human rights experts and civil society.

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