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UN experts concerned over the continued imprisonment and ill-treatment of 3 human rights defenders in the UAE

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News briefing:  

Translation and editing by: Committee for Justice

Geneva, March 28 2021  

United Nations human rights experts have expressed their concerns about the UAE authorities’ continued imprisonment and alleged ill-treatment of human rights defenders, Mohamed Abdullah Al-Roken, Ahmed Mansoor and Nasser Bin Ghaith.

In their memorandum, which was sent on January 25 2021, the experts went on to detail the cases of the three defenders.

Mohamed Abdullah Al-Roken 

Mohamed Abdullah Al-Roken, is a human rights defender, lawyer and academic. He used to provide legal assistance to victims of human rights violations and human rights defenders in the UAE. He previously held the position as President of the UAE’s Jurists Association before its dissolution by the authorities in 2011, and was formerly a member of the International Association of Lawyers and the International Bar Association. He has authored books on human rights, international law and counter-terrorism, and in 2017 was awarded the Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize for his legal defence of human rights defenders and political activists.

Al-Roken was arrested in the case of UAE94, and on July 2, 2013, he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment based on confessions extracted under torture by the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi, and he was banned from practising as a lawyer.

Ahmed Mansoor          

Ahmed Mansour is a human rights defender, poet, and engineer. He is a member of the advisory board of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, a member of the Middle East and North Africa Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch, and has cooperated widely with the UN in documenting human rights violations in the UAE. In 2015, in recognition of his peaceful defence of the rights of others, he was awarded the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

In April 2011, Mansoor and four other men, in the case known as UAE 5, were arrested on charges of insulting heads of state for their internet activities and their criticism of the UAE authorities, and he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on May 29, 2018 based on charges, the details of which are not yet known, and he went on hunger strike more than once to protest against the poor conditions of his detention.

Nasser Bin Ghaith 

Nasser bin Ghaith, a human rights defender and academic, previously lectured in economics at Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi branch before his arbitrary arrest in 2015. Ibn Ghaith was one of the five men in the UAE5 case. He was allegedly arrested on August 18 2015. His arrest and detention were considered arbitrary in an opinion by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention during its eightieth session, and the Working Group requested his immediate release and compensation.

On March 29, 2017, after a trial that was reportedly marred by a number of fair-trial rights violations such as access to his lawyer and family and a lack of relevant evidence admitted by the defence. Bin Ghaith was convicted by the Federal Court of Appeal in Abu Dhabi, with ten years imprisonment, on the basis of provisions of the Penal Code, the 2012 Cybercrime Law, and the Counterterrorism Law.

On April 17 2017, Bin Ghaith issued a statement from his prison, denouncing his conviction and sentencing and declared he would go on hunger strike to demand his immediate release. He went on strike for 40 days until he was transferred to a maximum-security prison and placed in solitary confinement, and since 2018 he has been denied visits from his family.

Charges without evidence and unfair trial: 

In their memo, the experts stated that they are concerned about the charges against these defenders, given the apparent lack of evidence to support them, which appears to have been brought against them in response to exercising their right to freedom of expression online and offline, to denounce human rights violations in the country and criticise political leaders and their policies.

They also expressed their concerns about allegations that fair trial standards were violated during their trials and that their criminalisation of human rights defenders in reprisal for their legitimate and peaceful efforts to advocate for the rights of others in the UAE is concerning not only for the detrimental impact on the lives of those individuals and their families but for the chilling effect it creates on civic space in the country.

UN demands from the UAE authorities: 

The experts called on the UAE to provide information related to the factual and legal basis for the arrest, detention and conviction of Al-Roken, Mr Mansoor and Mr Bin Gaith, and an explanation of how these are in line with international norms and human rights standards.

The experts also called on the UAE to provide information about their regular and prolonged detention in solitary confinement and the guarantees granted to them to review such a decision.

The experts also asked the UAE authorities to provide detailed information about the measures taken to ensure their physical and psychological safety, and what efforts have been made to ensure effective access to all necessary medical assistance, including medicines, during their detention, and what measures have been taken to ensure the respect for the human rights of detainees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The experts asked the authorities to provide information on allegations that they had been prevented from communicating with their families and legal representatives, and to explain how this was in line with international human rights standards.

The experts asked the UAE to provide details of judicial or other investigations that have been conducted in relation to allegations of torture, in addition to reports on violations of fair trial standards, explaining why such investigations were not carried out, and to indicate the measures taken by the UAE to ensure that human rights defenders and lawyers in the UAE are able to carry out their peaceful and legitimate work in a safe and enabling environment without fear of threats or acts of intimidation and harassment of any sort.

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