The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The Casablanca Call for Democracy and Human Rights

We, the signatories to this call, as politicians, intellectuals and civil society advocates, believe that the achievement of democracy and the embodiment of human rights in the Arab world is an absolute necessity and requires a broader engagement of all citizens and political and social forces. We observe, with great concern, the dramatic and alarming backsliding of political reforms in the Arab world, due to several structural obstacles since the beginning of the new century. We hereby appeal to all parties concerned with the future of democracy - governments, civil society institutions, political organizations, trade unions, and the media - in the belief that the achievement of real and effective reforms is the responsibility of all parties.

We affirm that confronting the various obstacles that continue to prevent the achievement of a peaceful transfer of power requires the following:

1- An immediate undertaking of profound and effective political reforms that respect the rule of law and institutional integrity based on the principle of separation of powers. This must be done in accordance with the principle of peoples' sovereignty, respect for human rights and freedoms, and by confirming the ballot box as the only legitimate method of achieving a peaceful transfer of power, and ensuring the transparency of the electoral process, accepting its results, and enhancing the efforts of independent monitors in accordance with international standards;

2- Protection of an independent judiciary as a top priority for democratic change, as a prerequisite for the protection of human rights and freedoms, and as the guarantor for the supremacy of the rule of law and state institutions;

3- The immediate release of all political prisoners - numbering in the thousands in various Arab prisons - and putting an end to political trials of any kind, torture of political opponents, and the practice of kidnapping;

4- Enabling and encouraging political parties and trade unions to engage in their right to organize freely, use all available media outlets, take advantage of public funding, and be free of any interference of the state apparatus in their affairs;

5- Acknowledgment of the right of civil society organizations to perform their advocacy roles freely and effectively, having their independence and privacy duly respected, their internal affairs not disrupted, and their sources of financial support kept open and active. We call upon all Arab governments to engage with civil society organizations in real a partnerships to achieve sustainable human development and to empower women and youth to take part in the development process;

6- Guarantee of freedom of expression, free access of the media and journalists to information and news sources. The respect for the independence of journalists' syndicates and allowing them to disseminate information and opinion without censorship, and undue administrative, or judicial pressures, and the abolishment of the imprisonment penalty in cases against journalists;

7- Development of mechanisms to ensure the neutrality of state institutions and their placement in the direct service of their constituents regardless of political allegiances, and without interference in the affairs of political parties and civil society organizations;

8- Mobilization of all forces and efforts to comply with good governance, political integrity and transparency, and combating corruption as an unethical social, political, and economic phenomenon that has turned administrative corruption into a system for administering corruption. We believe this undermines development efforts, drains national resources, and threatens social peace;

9- Summoning of the private sector to play its role in the contribution to political reforms, the preservation of freedoms and to strive for social justice, affirming the strong link between development and democracy, and ensuring transparency and free and fair competition;

10- Supporting efforts to achieve national reconciliation and unity and avoid the dangers that threaten unity, and feed the sectarian, religious, ethnic, and political conflicts that destabilize Arab states and societies;

11- Appealing to democratic forces in the entire world to put pressure on their own governments to refrain from supporting non-democratic regimes in the Arab world, and from adopting double standards in their relations with Arab regimes;

12- Reaffirmation of the interconnectedness of political reform with the renewal of religious thought, which requires support for, and expansion of, the practice of ijtihad in a climate of complete freedom of thought, under democratic systems of government. Furthermore, we support the dialogue that began several years ago between Islamists and secularists at the local and regional levels and emphasize the importance of continuing such endeavors in order to provide solid ground for the protection of democracy and human rights from any political or ideological setbacks.