Scottish member of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs committee Alyn Smith has urged the Arab League to be more supportive of civil society organisations and to promote human rights among its members.
The call came in a debate with Arab League Secretary General Nabil El Araby.
Civil society, journalists, trade unions, non-governmental organisations and other bodies have a key role to play in developing the Arab Spring countries, yet many are being repressed by authoritarian regimes keen to shut down dialogue and potential criticism. The Secretary General's efforts to consult and meet with Arab and international civil society actors are appreciated among NGOs and Alyn has expressed his support for these efforts.
"The Arab League is a membership organisation and can only do so much, but it is an important forum nonetheless and the very impressive Mr El Araby has reinforced the credibility of this institution - progress the EU would do well to support and encourage.
"Where many of the member states of the Arab League clearly fall short of the norms we would expect, we should while remaining frank also recognise and contextualise progress. There are organisations and individuals in each Arab League state we can work with and encourage. The solutions to the region's many problems will not come from outside and will not come just from politicians talking to each other.
"On human rights however, there is no room for compromise. I view with considerable scepticism the establishment of an Arab Court of Human Rights that neither provides for individual access nor provides an automatic access for Arab human rights NGOs, and I suspect I'm not alone.
“We already have an existing international legal order, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. We should work with such voices of progress as we can find to encourage progress towards ratification of the Rome Statute, not give credibility to a forum that cannot and will not deliver any change."
A video of the speech should display above, if not you can find it on Alyn's YouTube channel