Arab country flags fly in Baghdad ahead of the 2012 Arab League summit. Baghdad, Iraq, March 27, 2012. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Pool/epa/Corbis)

Arab country flags fly in Baghdad ahead of the 2012 Arab League summit. Baghdad, Iraq, March 27, 2012. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Pool/epa/Corbis)

The upcoming Arab League summit in Egypt on March 28–29 will mark the 70th anniversary of the organization’s founding. On the agenda will be reform of the League itself, as many believe its initial post-war role as a pan-Arab institution to confront the colonial legacies of its states has left it ill-equipped to address growing disunity and the collapse of several of its members, from Libya to Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. In this context, a major question looming over the summit will be how to achieve accountability for the gross human rights violations, transnational sectarian violence, and humanitarian crises left in the wake of the region’s growing instability.

Part of the League’s answer to the question has been the proposed establishment of a human rights court to provide a common judicial mechanism to respond to the region’s needs. The court, to be housed in Bahrain, will become operational if seven states ratify its recently adopted statute. The court’s jurisdiction would rest within the framework of the Arab human rights system, namely the 2008 Arab Charter on Human Rights. It is intended to provide redress for human rights abuses among the League’s member states. Yet controversy and doubt surround the proposal. Regional and international human rights defenders claim the statute does not uphold international standards of human rights or guarantee the protection of procedural justice and due process. Read more