GENEVA – Geneva Council for Human Rights and Justice (GCHRJ) launched a human rights campaign aimed at freeing prisoners of conscience in the United Arab Emirates to stop the violations of arbitrary detention and torture.
The campaign coincided with the issuance of the UAE presidential declaration of 2019 as a year of tolerance” in the country.
GCHRJ stated in a press release that the UAE authorities must demonstrate their adoption of the slogan of tolerance in word by an immediate initiative to clear its prisoners of dissidents and human rights activists.
The Council stressed that the continued detention of activists, bloggers, journalists and dissidents is a flagrant violation of the UAE’s adoption of the slogan of tolerance and a calling for its universal promotion.
The UAE president said today that next year will be a year of tolerance in the UAE aiming at “making the UAE as global capital for tolerance and emphasizing the value of tolerance as a sustainable institutional act through a set of laws and policies aimed at deepening the values of tolerance and dialogue.”
Khalifa said that the 2019-Declaration of Tolerance reflects the approach adopted by the UAE since its inception to be a bridge of communication and convergence among people and cultures of the world in an open and respectful environment, rejecting extremism and accepting the other, according to the official UAE news agency.
GCHRJ said it was meaningless to consider the UAE as a “global capital of tolerance at a time when arbitrary arrests of activists and opponents continue and the authorities are committing flagrant human rights violations against citizens and expatriates.
The Council documented a list of the most prominent detainees in the UAE to call on the international community and its human rights organizations to take serious action to pressure the UAE authorities to release them immediately and not to be silent about the UAE’s claim to adopt tolerance only on media.
* Ahmed Mansour, a prominent human rights activist and engineering student at Ajman University. He is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Advisory Committee at Human Rights Watch. He was arrested on 8 April 2011 due to his peaceful calls for reform.
Before his arrest, Mansour was among 133 signatories to a petition calling for the election of the Federal National Council, an advisory council to the government, by direct universal suffrage and legislative powers. Mansour also ran a website called the UAE Dialogue, which criticized government policies and UAE leaders.
In November 2011, Abu Dhabi Federal Supreme Court sentenced Mansur to three years in prison for insulting senior state officials in a trial deemed unfair and flawed by law. Authorities also accused Mansour of using the UAE dialogue dialogue “to conspire against the integrity and security of the state,” inciting others to break the law, calling for boycotts of elections and anti-government demonstrations.
Although the President exempted Mansour on November 28, 2011, he was subjected to physical attacks, death threats, government surveillance, and cybercrime attacks.
In 2015, Mansour won the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, but was unable to travel to Geneva to receive it due to the UAE refusal to lift the travel ban imposed on him since 2011 and did not grant him a passport
Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith, a former professor at the Sorbonne branch in Abu Dhabi. He was arrested by security forces in the United Arab Emirates on 18 August 2015 and unfairly sentenced by the Federal Court of Appeal to 10 years in prison. March 29, 2017 because of the tweets he published on his personal account in which he criticized the violations of the Egyptian regime for human rights.
The UAE authorities found that the tweets might disrupt the good relations with the Egyptian state via the Internet and to provoke sedition, hatred, racism and sectarianism and damage to national unity and peace Social. In response to this unfair trial, Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith announced his entry into a hunger strike on April 2, 2017, to a public opinion statement from Al-Rizin Prison confirming his innocence and that his trial was not a fair trial. In response to his demands, the administration of the Al-Rizin Prison tightened the pressure on Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith, as he was pressured and prevented from visiting, communicating and finding his place of detention for more than six months. On February 25, 2018, Dr. Ben Ghaith announced that he would go on hunger strike again in response to his refusal to ill-treatment in Al-Rizin prison. Since that decision, the prison authorities have forbidden visits and all contacts between him and his family. The last visit was on March 7, 2018, and he was exhausted and deteriorated due to high blood pressure.
The campaign stressed that the silence of the Sorbonne in France about the violations committed by the UAE authorities against the employees of the university and its rules of procedure and academic freedom and the practice of racism against them is a direct participation in all these violations and encourages authorities in Abu Dhabi to proceed with these violations and ICBU considered withdrawing the university branch there as a victory for human rights and freedoms in the world and as an enforcement to the implementation the highest standards of transparency and integrity.
Dr Mohammed al-Roken is a prominent human rights lawyer and former president of the UAE’s Jurists Association who was arrested on 17 July 2012. He was sentenced in July 2013 to 10 years’ imprisonment, following the grossly unfair trial of 94 reform advocates, which became known as the “UAE 94” trial.
Many of the UAE 94 defendants have alleged in court that they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated in pre-trial detention, where they were often held incommunicado for months in secret State Security detention facilities.
Ahmed Mansoor is a prominent human rights defender who received the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2015. He has documented the human rights situation in the UAE since 2006 and has publicly spoken out in defense of international human rights. Up until his arrest on 20 March 2017, Ahmed Mansoor was the last remaining human rights defender in the UAE who had been able to criticize the authorities publicly. He was tried and convicted on charges including “insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols” including its leaders, “publish[ing] false information to damage [the] UAE’s reputation abroad” and “portray[ing] the UAE as a lawless land,” and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment on 29 May.
Osama al-Najjar was arrested on 17 March 2014 and sentenced to three years in prison after sending tweets addressed to the Minister of Interior expressing concern that his father had been ill-treated in prison. He was due for release from al-Razeen Prison in Abu Dhabi in March 2017, having fully served his prison sentence. However the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court decided to extend his detention at the request of the Public Prosecution on the pretext that he remained a threat and therefore should be detained in the Counseling Center, another area within the prison.
On 2 July 2013, the court convicted 69 of the 94 defendants, including the eight tried in absentia, and acquitted 25. The defendants included many people who had achieved prominence in the UAE in their respective fields in the law, education and academia, business, and as government advisers. The court sentenced to prison terms of between seven and 15 years many well-known figures including: prominent human rights lawyer and law professor Dr Mohammed Al-Roken, who has written a number of books and journal articles on human rights, freedom of expression, and counterterror laws; high profile lawyers Dr Mohammed Al-Mansoori and Salem Al-Shehhi; judgeMohammed Saeed Al-Abdouli; law professor and former judge Dr Ahmed Al-Zaabi; lawyer and university professor Dr Hadef Al-Owais; senior member of the Ras Al-Khaimah ruling family Sheikh Dr Sultan Kayed Mohammed Al-Qassimi; businessman Khalid Al-Shaiba Al-Nuaimi; Science teacher Hussain Ali Al-Najjar Al-Hammadi; blogger and former teacher Saleh Mohammed Al-Dhufairi; student leader Abdulla Al-Hajri; and student and blogger Khalifa Al-Nuaimi who, before his arrest, had kept an active blog which he used to express criticism of the human rights situation in the UAE and the heavy-handed approach of the State Security apparatus.
Others convicted at the trial include seven activists, known as the “UAE 7”, who had their citizenship arbitrarily withdrawn in 2011 and were told to leave the country. They are economist Ahmed Ghaith Al-Suwaidi; teacher Hussein Al-Jabri; former long-term employee of the Ministry of Presidential Affairs Hassan Al-Jabri; teacherIbrahim Hassan Al-Marzouqi; former teacher Sheikh Mohammed Al-Sadeeq; Dr Shahin Abdullah Al-Hosni; and Dr Ali Hussain Al-Hammadi.
During the trial, the authorities took steps to prevent independent reporting of the proceedings. International media and independent trial observers were not permitted access to the court. Security authorities refused to allow an independent trial observer delegated by Amnesty International entry to the UAE immediately prior to the opening of the trial. Two independent observers sent by the International Commission of Jurists were turned away by plain-clothed security officials before they reached the Federal Supreme Court building. Another international observer mandated by the International Federation for Human Rights, the Gulf Center for Human Rights, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, was also denied access to the final trial hearing on 2 July 2013, despite an earlier indication by the UAE authorities that she would be allowed to attend.
In November 2013, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an Opinion on the UAE 94 case, concluding that the UAE government had deprived the defendants of their right to a fair trial, enshrined in Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that the arrest and detention of the individuals had resulted from the exercise of their rights to freedom of opinion and expression and to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, guaranteed under articles 19 and 20 of the UDHR, stating that the restrictions on those rights could not be considered to be proportionate and justified. It declared the arrest and detention of the 61 defendants who were imprisoned following the mass trial to be arbitrary and called on the UAE authorities to release them and afford them appropriate reparation.
Authorities also barred some of the defendants’ relatives from the courtroom; and others, who were permitted to attend, were harassed, detained or imprisoned after they criticized the proceedings and publicized torture allegations made by the defendants on the Twitter social media website.
In April 2013, a court sentenced Abdullah Al-Hadidi, the son of one of the UAE 94 who was convicted, Abdulrahman Al-Hadidi, to 10 months’ imprisonment on the charge of publishing details of the trial proceedings “without probity and in bad faith,” after he criticized the proceedings on Twitter. He was released in November 2013.
Blogger and netizen, Obaid Yousef Al-Zaabi, brother of Dr Ahmed Al-Zaabi, was arrested in July 2013 and again in December 2013, and was prosecuted on several charges based on his Twitter posts about the trial, including spreading “slander concerning the rulers of the UAE using phrases that lower their status, and accusing them of oppression” and “disseminating ideas and news meant to mock and damage the reputation of a governmental institution.” In June 2014, Obaid Yousef Al-Zaabi was acquitted of all charges but, despite this, the authorities continue to arbitrarily detain him, even though there is no legal basis for depriving him of his liberty. He remains in the prisoners’ ward of Sheikh Khalifa Medical City Hospital in Abu Dhabi, as he continues to suffer from advanced arthritis and rheumatism and has difficulty walking.
GCHRJ called on the UAE to release immediately and unconditionally all those individuals detained or imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association, prohibit the practice of secret detention and to ensure that victims of torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, and other human rights violations have access to effective remedies.