Annual report 2020

Iraqi protests


Dear friends and supporters,

2020 has been a particularly challenging year, with the pandemic forcing us to adapt and respond to a new reality. Thanks to the dedication, creativity and responsiveness of our team, our mission to support victims of gross human rights violations throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has been unhindered. The outbreak of COVID-19 compelled us to rethink the way we work so as to ensure the continuity of our activities. In spite of the challenges, we have continued to build partnerships with victims, their families, lawyers, human rights defenders, and grassroots civil society actors.

However, the pandemic has given rise to an even further deterioration of fundamental rights and freedoms throughout the region. A number of states have resorted to measures that severely restrict these rights, ranging from abusive extensions of state of emergency powers to enacting laws criminalising opinions deemed as “fake news”, along with the authorities’ failure to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in detention facilities. Grassroots activists who have been forced to rely solely on technology to carry out their activities, have faced increased attacks and threats online, making them all the more vulnerable to reprisals.

If anything, this crisis has acted as a sharp reminder of how essential it is for the MENA region to undergo systemic structural changes; without social justice and the rule of law, the pandemic can only heighten the already dire human rights situation on the ground. We are therefore all the more committed to carrying out our mission and redoubling our efforts in this new year. Though respect for universal human rights is far from being a reality in the MENA region, steps taken towards a democratic transition and greater respect for human rights in Sudan, for example, have renewed hopes that change is possible.

2020 has also been a year of reflection for MENA Rights Group, as we marked two years since our inception in September 2018, nearly reaching the landmark of 1,000 individuals who have mandated us to defend their rights. We therefore reflected on our past achievements and challenges faced, and produced a Strategic Framework for 2021-2023. This will be our compass to ensure our work continues to align with our vision, mission, values and theory of change, with the desire to always do better, ensure the greatest impact, and serve the best interests of victims of human rights abuses.

In 2021, we will uphold our commitment to assisting victims and implementing a sustainable strategy to foster structural changes in societies across the MENA region. We will continue fighting injustice, working towards advancing the rule of law, and as part of a joint community and with your support, making progress towards ensuring that people enjoy the effective recognition and respect of their rights and freedoms.

Last but not least, I wish to thank victims and their families for placing their trust in us, as well as all of our partners, lawyers and civil society activists, without whom our work would not be possible. I also wish to warmly thank each of our passionate and dedicated board and team members, thanks to whom we have continued to thrive.

In solidarity,

Inès Osman

Co-founder and director