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Geneva, on December 27, 2018

The International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR) has learned that UAE authorities refused to release Othman Al-Shehhi and Khalifa Rabiah after they served their jail terms in July 2018.

Othman Al-Shehhi and Khalifa Rabiah were arrested in July 2013 during the massive wave of repression carried out on freedom of expression and association in the UAE. In March 2014, they were sentenced by the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court to five years imprisonment and a fine of half a million dirhams.

The two men and many other detainees who completed their jail terms have been kept in custody under the pretext of fighting terrorism. At the end of their sentence, detainees are transferred to counselling centres (Munasaha centres) aiming to “rehabilitate” them in order to prevent the terrorist threat these detainees may allegedly constitute for the country. This practice has been used by the authorities to extend the detention of the victims indefinitely outside the protection of the law.

The International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR) believes the two detainees to be also detained in a counselling centre (Munasah centre) pursuant to the provisions of Articles 1, 40, 48 and 66 of Federal Law No. 7 of 2014 on terrorist crimes. However, their detention in a counselling centre at the Al-Razeen desert prison, under the guise of combatting terrorism, is clearly an abusive use of this already highly questionable law.

In fact, the Federal Law on Terrorist Crimes No. 7 of 2014 does not guarantee, for those placed in counselling centres, the right to a judicial and administrative appeal or the right to legal counsel. The law does not either indicate the maximum period of detention in these counselling centres in counselling centres, but rather left it unprecise which opens the door to abuses against political opponents, bloggers and activists.

Among the detainees held in the counselling centres are Said Al-Buraimi, Abdul Wahid Al-Badi, Osama Al-Najjar, Abdullah Al-Helu, Faisal Al-Shehhi, Badr Al-Bahri and Ahmed Al-Mulla. Said Al-Buraimi and  Abdul Wahid Al-Badi have completed their sentence on March 5, 2018, whereas Osama Al-Najjar was supposed to be released in March 17, 2017. As for Abdullah Al-Helu, Badr Al-Bahri and Ahmed Al-Mulla, they have all completed their prison terms in April 2017.

The ICJHR is deeply concerned by this practice which leads to an intensification of human rights violations against prisoners of conscience. Despite the opinions of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) urging the UAE to release prisoners of conscience and all victims of arbitrary detention, the Emirati authorities refused to free the victims and denied the arbitrary nature of their detention. However, keeping them in custody after the completion of their sentence is another step back in term of respect of human rights and is an open door to unlimited arbitrary detention.

The ICJHR is also seriously concerned by the current conditions of detention of the detainees in the UAE, especially prisoners of conscience, who seem to be particularly targeted by random repressive measures, including ill-treatment, solitary confinement and arbitrary deprivation of family visits.

Most lately, the ICJHR was informed that Rashid Bin Sabit, a member of the UAE 94 detained at Al-Razeen prison, has been denied family visits for four months and is currently subjected to ill-treatment and poor detention conditions. His case is not an isolated case and consistent testimonies state that these measures are generalised.

In view of the above, the ICJHR urges the UAE government to immediately and unconditionally release activists Khalifa Al-Rabiah and Othman Al-Shehhi and other human rights activists and bloggers who completed their prison sentences and stop transferring detainees to Munasaha centres.

The centre further reminds the Emirati authorities – especially as member of the Human Rights Council – of their obligation to cooperate with the Special Procedures and comply in good faith with their decisions and requests, which include including the WGAD opinions.

The ICJHR also calls upon the Emirati authorities to put an end immediately to the crackdown on prisoners of conscience and treat them with dignity and humanity in conformity with human rights principles.

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