what do you think about the UPR recommendations to the United Arab Emirates?

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The voting for this poll has ended on: August 2, 2018

10 decem 2018 site


Geneva, on December 10, 2018


Today, the world celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948 to guarantee fundamental rights and freedoms and protect human dignity. This text enshrines the most fundamental values and principles, such as freedom and equality of all human beings.


In fact, the UDHR states in its Articles 1 and 2 that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and that they are “entitled to all the rights and freedoms […] without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion”. The United Arab Emirates failed to comply with these provisions of the UDHR. In fact, expressing political opinions in the UAE may lead you straight to jail. You might be stripped of your Emirati citizenship, along with your family, be abducted in the middle of the night to be taken to an unknown location, leaving your family without any information on your whereabouts for months. The Security forces, supposed to protect you, will torture you in total impunity and force you to sigh written confessions before you are eventually summarily tried and arbitrarily sentenced to a jail term. This is what happened and is still happening to dozens of political activists in the UAE.


Moreover, political opponents are not the only targets of such abusive measures. Anyone expressing critical opinions become a target and put themselves at high risk of reprisals. In fact, the UAE are making clear distinctions between its citizens in total disregard of the abovementioned provisions, violating thus their most basic rights.


Authorities are making clear distinction, not only on the basis of political opinions, but also on the basis of race and nationality. Migrants workers are suffering inhuman working conditions and are treated as second-class citizens. Among them, house workers are particularly exposed to abuses and mistreatments (excessive working hours, bad housing conditions, physical ill-treatment, etc.), in violation of Article 23 of the UDHR. They are also systematically denied access to an independent and impartial judicial authority, which usually rules in favour of the Emirati employer.


Another case is that of Matthew Hedges, a British student arrested in May 2018 and sentenced in November 2018, after a 5-minute trial, to life imprisonment for spying in the UAE. After the diplomatic intervention of the British authorities, he was finally granted a presidential pardon and released a few days after his sentence was issued. In the meantime, the Emirati citizens remain in custody in very poor condition. The UAE 94 and other prisoners of conscience did not benefit from such a measure. Worse, some of them are kept in custody after they served their sentence. Among them are Saeed Al-Burimi, Abdulwahid Al-Badi, Othman Al-Shehi, Khalifa Rabeea and Ossama Al-Najjar. The UAE authorities decided to transfer them to counselling centres (munasaha centres) instead of releasing them.


Ossama Al-Najjar was arrested in 2014 and sentenced to three years in jail for a Twitter post criticising the arbitrary detention of his father and for cooperating with international NGOs and UN human rights mechanisms. Dr Mohamed Al-Roken and Ahmed Mansoor are also two important figures in promoting and defending human rights in the UAE. In fact, they are among the rare existing human rights defenders in the country. Dr Al-Roken defended the UAE 94 while other lawyers refused to take their case. Ahmed Mansoor had long promoted human rights and defended victims of human rights violations. Eventually, he was the only remaining voice speaking out for his peers and standing up for fundamental rights and freedoms until his arrest in March 2017. Earlier this year, he was sentenced to ten years in prison for allegedly “inciting to sedition, sectarianism and hatred on social medias”.

Finally, a case that should also be mentioned that of Alia Abdulnour, arrested in 2015 and charged with financing terrorism after she participated to raise funds for needy Syrian families in the UAE and war-affected women and children in Syria. Held in solitary confinement, humiliated and mistreated, she was deprived of her procedural guarantees and sentenced to ten years imprisonment on the sole basis of confessions extracted under duress. After her arrest, Alia Abdulnour was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Despite the repeated requests of her family to release her for medical reasons or, at the very least, transfer her to a hospital specialised in cancer treatments, she remain under police guard at Mafraq Hospital in Abu Dhabi, although it is clearly not equipped to handle such cases. Again, this is a serious breach to Article 5 forbidding torture and inhuman treatment and Article 25 which grants the right to appropriate medical care.

It is deeply worrying to note that, 70 years after the adoption of the UDHR, the UAE is persisting to violate its most important provisions and still refuses to grant freedom and dignity to its citizens. The human rights situation in the UAE, where all human rights defenders are behind bars, is highly concerning.


In this day, the ICJHR would like to stress the urgent need to address the systematic human rights violations in the country. The UAE often presents itself as a modern country where all rights and freedoms are granted. Thus, we call upon the Emirati government to act immediately to assess the human rights situation within its territory and fully comply with the UDHR and other international instruments to finally meet this ideal. The ICJHR hopes that the next UDHR anniversary will witness a significant improvement in the situation of human rights and human rights defenders in the UAE.