MENA Rights Group is a Geneva-based legal advocacy NGO defending and promoting fundamental rights and freedoms in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Adopting a holistic approach, we work at both the individual and structural level. We represent victims of human rights violations before international law mechanisms. In order to ensure the non-repetition of these violations, we identify patterns and root causes of violations on the ground and bring key issues to the attention of relevant stakeholders to call for legal and policy reform.
Our organisation was founded by young and dynamic female human rights practitioners, and registered as an association under Swiss law in September 2018. We believe in the power of the law to support individuals in claiming their rights, and to advance justice and freedom for all in the MENA region. The principle of universality rests at the heart of our work. Therefore, we defend all victims of egregious abuses, without discrimination. As such, we believe that adopting an apolitical approach to human rights issues, and supporting everyone to claim their rights, is a powerful way to achieve change. Because human rights violations do not happen in a vacuum, we are also committed to implementing a sustainable strategy to foster structural reforms across the MENA region.
Today, respect for universal human rights is still far from being a reality in the MENA region, and human rights defenders systematically face reprisals for their work. This is why we chose to establish ourselves in Geneva, Switzerland, a human rights hub and home to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for human rights, to ensure we would be able to operate safely and freely.
We maintain very close ties to victims on the ground, their families and grassroots activists, with whom we engage on a daily basis. Since our inception, we have been trusted by hundreds of individuals across the region to defend their rights.
Our team of dynamic and dedicated human rights practitioners is driven by values of trust, integrity, empathy, and respect. We are united by a thorough understanding and passion for the MENA region. Each and everyone of us is committed to ensuring that people enjoy the respect, protection, and promotion of their rights and freedoms.
Individuals across the MENA region live in just and peaceful societies, founded on the rule of law and the effective recognition and respect of the rights and freedoms of all.
We work directly with victims, their families, lawyers, human rights defenders and other civil society actors. We support them to claim their universally recognised rights and freedoms by adopting a holistic approach.
At the individual level, we document cases of human rights violations, provide legal assistance to victims by using primarily international law mechanisms, and raise awareness of their plight with relevant stakeholders.
At the structural level, we undertake in-depth research to assess the root causes of human rights violations. On that basis, we advocate for legal and policy reform in line with international standards.
At the internal level, we strive to balance the wellbeing of our team members with the effective and sustainable implementation of our mission.
Our Theory of Change
To achieve our vision, we support individuals in the MENA region whose rights have been violated, regardless of their age, gender, religion, origin, political affiliation, the nature of the charges pressed against them, or any other characteristic.
We collaborate with a network of victims, their families, lawyers, human rights defenders, and grassroots civil society actors to ensure our work is informed by and responds to their concerns. With their help, we document individual cases as well as patterns of human rights violations.
Because domestic remedies are often ineffective or unavailable in the region, we engage with regional and international human rights protection mechanisms to help victims and survivors claim their rights and hold the authorities accountable. We also raise awareness of their plight and advocate with relevant stakeholders, to call for an end to the violation.
Furthermore, we believe that sustainably and effectively remedying individuals’ situations requires systemic changes. Therefore, we identify laws and policies enabling violations and advocate for human rights-based reforms. This work aims at building and strengthening the rule of law and national accountability mechanisms, as well as guaranteeing the non-repetition of human rights violations.
To exert pressure on the responsible entities, we raise awareness of these violations, and draw them to the attention of relevant domestic and international stakeholders such as governments, human rights protection mechanisms, or businesses. In doing so, we actively challenge states’ narratives with regard to their breaches of international law obligations.
By acting at both the individual and structural level, we contribute to an environment in which individuals can claim their rights, and foster change in their societies. By impacting both lives and laws, we contribute to ensuring that people across the MENA region live in just and peaceful societies, founded on the rule of law and the effective recognition and respect of the rights and freedoms of all.
Non-discrimination and equality
We believe in the universality of human rights, which means that all human beings are equally entitled to the same rights. As such, we defend all victims of human rights violations without discrimination of any kind.
This principle also applies internally as we do not discriminate against employees and pay close attention to diversity and inclusion during recruitment processes.
Independence and impartiality
We devise our strategy and plan of action based on a thorough and independent assessment of where our work can achieve the greatest value. We carry out our work in an impartial and non-partisan manner, i.e. without any external directive, be it political, ideological or financial.
In practice, this means that our decision to represent an individual does not imply support for their beliefs or values, but is instead rooted in an understanding that everyone is entitled to the same fundamental rights and freedoms. To safeguard our independence, we do not accept any funding, direct or indirect, from governments in the MENA region.
Integrity and transparency
We hold ourselves to strong ethical standards. As a legal advocacy NGO, this entails abiding by the principles of legal ethics, meaning that we respect the rules of confidentiality and only act upon informed consent by victims and their families.
We value honesty, and strive to be truthful and transparent in our work, and when engaging with all stakeholders. When conducting our activities, we remain accountable towards our partners, supporters and beneficiaries.
Professionalism and dedication
We strive for excellence and maintain high quality standards when carrying out our work. We do so by ensuring we rely on credible and reliable sources, and are committed to provide the highest quality of assistance to victims of human rights violations. Even if the nature of work often entails working with urgency and under tight deadlines, we ensure all outputs are thoroughly peer-reviewed.
We encourage innovation and are keen to develop new actions to ensure we achieve the highest impact. We work with passion and dedication, and are deeply committed to making our vision a reality.
Empathy and respect
We believe that empathy is key to trust and respect, and requires good communication and understanding. We engage with victims and their families with respect for their dignity and cultural sensitivity.
At the internal level, we show kindness and due regard for each other’s well-being and needs, and communicate with respect. We acknowledge and welcome different perspectives of staff members, and engage with each other without judgment.