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UN experts alarmed by UAE’s trial of civil society members on terrorism charges

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Press release

Geneva – January 23, 2024


UN experts expressed concern over the ongoing trial in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) involving 84 members of civil society facing dubious terrorism charges. The experts fear that the trial could lead to severe punishments, including the death penalty or lengthy prison sentences, for alleged acts dating back to 2010-2011.

The experts underscored that these prosecutions are part of an escalating crackdown on individuals and organizations advocating for peaceful political reform in the UAE. The crackdown has resulted in extended prison sentences under the Penal Code.

The UN experts raised the alarm over the violation of international norms, stating, “We are extremely concerned that the new charges brought against at least 84 members of civil society… violate international prohibitions on double jeopardy and retroactive criminal law.” Notable figures among the defendants include human rights defenders Mohamed Abdullah Al-Roken and Nasser Bin Ghaith al-Marri, who face additional charges despite serving previous sentences.

Emphasizing the need for compliance with international human rights law, the experts urged the UAE to ensure that its counter-terrorism legislation does not unduly restrict civil society and civic space. They expressed disappointment over the regressive step taken by the UAE, especially considering its current membership in the UN Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee.

Disturbing allegations of enforced disappearance, solitary confinement, incommunicado detention, and instances of torture or cruel treatment were brought to light by the experts. The defendants also faced violations of their right to a fair trial, restricted access to legal counsel, coerced confessions, and a lack of adequate access to judicial proceedings.

“The arbitrary application of counter-terrorism laws and violations of civil and political rights have a severe chilling effect on freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association in the country,” warned the experts, asserting that these individuals should never have been detained for exercising their fundamental rights.

The experts reminded the Emirati authorities that some detentions had been previously declared arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in 2013 and 2023. They further urged the UAE to reconsider prosecuting the “UAE87” under the 2014 counter-terrorism law and align its legislation with international human rights standards.

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