The situation of human rights in the UAE has not changed much during 2015 despite many promises of the government.
To muzzle, the UAE uses all possible means ignoring its international commitments or its status within the Human Rights Council, the high international body supposed to protect and promote human rights in the world.
In fact, the most significant human rights problems faced by victims of the UAE authorities concern many fundamental rights and freedoms, including the freedom of expression, movement, assembly, association, and internet use like internet postings or commentary. In UAE, people are also subject to arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, incommunicado detentions, and pretrial detentions.
In 2015, the ICJHR regularly reported cases in which people are tortured, illegally arrested, imprisoned, detained or forcibly disappeared. Such cases highlight the fact that the UAE does not respect its international obligations and statements.
The UAE often uses its influence to hide these serious human rights problems by silencing any dissident consolidated by its membership of the Human Rights Council.
On the other side, the UAE authorities do not strengthen the capacities of civil society nor give it necessary and relevant tools in order to interact with UN human rights mechanisms.
2015 was marked by serious acts such as the kidnapping of Abdulrahman Binsobeih in Indonesia and his repatriation to Abu Dhabi with total impunity. Unfortunately, a year separates us from the next UPR and the Emirates recede more and more in terms of fulfilling their commitments and their promises.
SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN UAE
It is important to note that the repression in the United Arab Emirates takes various forms.
There are violations committed against human rights defenders and other difficulties they face in UAE like criminalizing, harassment against them and their families, restriction of freedom of movement, work ban and abusive work dismissal.
The human rights activists are very rare and the majority of the population lives in fear. Criticism can be expensive. In 2015, the situation remains unchanged.
In his report of March 4, 2015, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders recalled that the UAE Government had not responded to the earlier communication dated 16 April 2014 and he stated that he was still awaiting a detailed response from the UAE Government to the allegations and questions raised .
Dr. Naser Bin Ghaith
Dr. Naser Bin Ghaith, is an activist and a prominent economist and academic who worked for the UAE Military as an economic and legal consultant. He forcibly disappeared following his arrest in August 18, 2015 from his work in Abu Dhabi (UAE). In fact, the UAE State Security Authority arrested him in August 18 at 2 p.m. at his work in Abu Dhabi, brought him house in Dubai at 4 p.m. for house search, and left the house at 8:30 p.m. UAE time. Dr. Naser was taken back with the UAE State Security Authority to unknown location. It is worth noting that he was one of the “UAE 5” group that was arrested in 2011 along with Mr. Ahmed Mansoor. It is believed that his “political” views and tweets are the reason behind his arrest, but we cannot confirm this now.
It is important to recall the daily struggle of Mr. Ahmed Mansoor who met several problems in his country. He has faced repeated intimidation, harassment, and death threats from the UAE authorities, including arrest and imprisonment in 2011 following an unfair trial. He and four other activists, the “UAE 5” group who called for democratic rights in the UAE were jailed in 2011 on the charge of insulting UAE officials because he spoke against the UAE government in his blog. Afterwards, he was pardoned and released by the UAE authorities in November of that year after serving nearly eight months although he has been sentenced to three years in prison. He lost his job as an engineer and received constant death threats. In spite of all of this, Mr. Mansoor continues to struggle as a human rights defender fighting for freedom of expression and political and civil rights in the UAE. This Emirati leading human rights activist and blogger, jailed and subject to death threats for his work to promote and protect human rights in the UAE, has been honored with the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders . In fact, he won the 2015 Martin Ennals Award during the ceremony hosted by the City of Geneva (Switzerland), on Tuesday 6th October 2015, but he was unable to receive his prize, because he was under a travel ban and his passport has been confiscated. Although the Martin Ennals Jury has publicly urged the UAE government to lift this travel ban and allow him to travel, the call remained answered.
Moreover, Martin Ennals Foundation Chair Micheline Calmy-Rey stated: “Ahmed Mansoor continues to pay the price for speaking out on human rights issues in his country; we urge his government to lift the travel ban.” Mr. Mansoor intervened from his home in the UAE and delivered his speech via Skype at the ceremony. The kind of restriction that he is confronting is representative of the difficulties faced by many human rights defenders in the UAE. It is obvious that preventing Mr. Mansoor from travelling to attend the Martin Ennals Award ceremony in Geneva is a violation both of Mr. Mansoor’s rights to freedom of movement and association and the UAE’s obligations as a member reelected of the UN Human Rights Council to respect and protect the work of human rights defenders. The increasingly restrictive environment within which many human rights defenders operate in the UAE is a general trend to fight against fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, with bloggers and activists frequently imprisoned for exercising these rights and anti-terrorism law increasingly used in a bad way to criminalize their work. Mr. Mansoor’s case reflects what happens in his country and shines a spotlight on serious human rights violations in this country, including torture, extended solitary confinement, and the systematic harassment of human rights defenders and their families, viewed as enemies of the State.
CONDITIONS OF DETENTION
Conditions of detention are continuously deteriorated in prisons. The prisoners are often maltreated or put under psychological pressure like Mohamed Al-Rokon.
Two main cells in the country with a bad reputation are the symbols of these deplorable conditions, Al Rezin and Al Wathba prisons.
In the mentioned prisons, torture, ill-treatment and solitary confinement are usually used to put prisoners under pressure, to punish, demoralize, humiliate, and condemn them to silence or to extract confessions.
The penitentiary administration is using these forms of torture as psychologic torture.
The case of Salim Al-Aradi (a Libyan businessman still arbitrarily detained) and his released brother, Mohamed Al-Aradi, illustrates the use of torture as a method against prisoners.
Another form of torture faced by Khalifa Al-Nuaimi and Ali Al-Khaja, Mansour Al-Ahmadi and Ahmed Al-Tabour is solitary confinement.
In UAE, at least, 180 individuals are detained, or are victims of enforced disappearances. In fact, many foreigners, such as Syrians, Libyans, Palestinians, Egyptians…etc. are arrested in the context of the anti-terrorist fight, especially those who supported the “Arab Spring” through social media.
1.Deplorable conditions in Al Rezin prison
The majority of “UAE 94” group is detained in Al Rezin prison, known as “The Guantanamo of UAE” which is one of the most ill reputed prisons in the country. Detainees reported that conditions in the prison are inhumane, humiliating and degrading. In spite of international appeals to improve the situation of these prisoners, Emirati authorities did not take any effective measure. In fact, authorities in Al Rezin Prison continue their repressive practices mainly against prisoners of conscience and in particular the “UAE 94” group. They inflict severe sanctions and deprive them of their most basic rights for trivial reasons. Prisoners are subjected to a series of persecution including:
• Prolonged solitary confinement in inhumane conditions
• Systematic search without any respect for prisoners’ decency and dignity
• Providing small amounts of food
• Banning visits to children and relatives of prisoners including those with disabilities
• Blocking access to all means of information
• Systematic insults and humiliation
• Lack of ventilation in cells, which creates unsafe and unhealthy conditions
• Depriving all prisoners from bed clothes, sheets and providing only one towel per week
• Making them pay for telephone calls, cutting the line for trivial reasons and often preventing them to make calls
• Preventing all means of entertainment and education
• Denying adequate health care for prisoners with conditions or elderly prisoners
• Severe poisoning caused by rotten meat, which led to severe cases of diarrhea and vomiting amidst complete absence of the minimum health care
Al Rezin prison’s authorities escalated their attack against prisoners in September 2015 as one of the prison’s officers, named Tarek Hamad Al-Mekbali, along with a group of heavily armed Nepali guards cuffed the hands and feet of prisoners, in addition to all those who protested against the barbarian practices inside the prison. Late at night, they put them in a yard outside the ward and humiliate them.
Earlier this year, many members of the “UAE 94” group were exposed to systematic punishment in Al Rezin prisons. Ill-treatment of detainees has led to a state of emaciation, yellowing and deterioration of prisoner’s health. The ICJHR have monitored the following inhumane practices:
• Denial of going out during the day, prison’s authorities had to give prisoners extra vitamin D tablets every night to compensate for its lack.
• Locking prisoners in their cells from 10 am to 5 am in complete darkness, which exposes them to isolation, hence, depression and mental disorders.
• Most detainees complain about their worn and torn clothes. The prison’s administration did not change their clothes for more than a year as they are prohibited to accept clothes from their families. Prisoners had to patch and tie worn parts.
In November 2015, Al Rezin authorities have installed loud speakers in each block to play extreme loud propaganda music that praises the ruler of Abu Dhabi. Many prisoners have described the noise level as very loud, unpleasant and harmful. This music has been played not only during the whole day but also from 1 am to 2 am, i.e. during normal sleeping hours. It aims to provoke the prisoners.
Mohamed Al-Rokon under psychological pressure
Due to the noise, Mohamed Al Rokon, the prominent activist and former lawyer of a group of reformists and dissidents involved unfairly in the “UAE 94” trial, who was sentenced to 10 years in Al Rezin prison as he represented the defendants, woke up at night. He had a panic attack and fainted on the floor. Despite ringing the emergency bell, no guards immediately responded despite the fact that cameras were in each cell. Eventually, they took him to the jail’s clinic where he was diagnosed of high blood pressure. In the morning, loud music was still on regardless of the situation of sick or old prisoners and Al Rokon was complaining again from a severe pain in the ears, doctors have eventually discovered that he had ear’s infection caused by the unbearable noise. Besides, he was put in solitary confinement, which is a form of psychological punishment and humiliation.
In April 2015, Al Rezin prison administration submits a paper for detainees in one of the wards containing conditions allowing who sign it to leave for Friday prayers a year after the ban. All detainees refused to sign on these conditions because they were violated the law. These conditions consisted in the commitment not to talk among themselves or exchange greetings. These terms are inhumane and cruel. Some detainees in one of the wards had a severe poisoning caused by eating rotten meat, which led to the deterioration of their health, diarrhea and vomiting without allowing the prison administration to provide any medical treatment to them. Most detainees complain about their worn and torn clothes. The prison administration did not change the clothes of detainees for a year and they do not allow them to enter their own clothes, forcing them to patch and tie worn parts. This policy of revenge and humiliation practiced against prisoners of conscience, this heinous and inhuman practices and violating international treats about treatment of political prisoners and detainee are condemnable.
Unfortunately, ill-treatments of these detainees led to the continuous deterioration of their health, specifically the “UAE 94” group who are now subjected to the effects of the ill-treatments. The prison administration voluntary takes all its time to provide any medical care to them; it only denies them a medical help. The authorities are accused to exercise a policy that can lead these prisoners of conscience to slow death in this manner. Despite the Standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners, the Basic principles for the treatment of prisoners and the Body of principles for the protection of all persons under any form of detention or imprisonment, the UAE prisons are failed in their policy.
2.Deplorable conditions in Al Wathba prison
Like Al Rezin prison, there are always new human rights violations. In Al Wathba prison, political prisoners from different nationalities are put in the same block (block n°9) in order to apply more discriminatory measures against them.
In 2015, they are still deprived of their most basic rights and prison’s authorities have reduced the visits from two times per week to only one time, in addition to the visits duration that became 15 min instead of 30 min.
Telephone calls were also reduced to three a week. Some prisoners have even reported that they were deprived of phone calls for more than 10 days. All of these harassments led to a collective decision to boycott eating prison’s food and only buy the one from the canteen.
3. Torture and other ill-treatment
It’s a systematic policy followed by the State. This is why the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment requested in 2015 to undertake a visit to the UAE. This one requested this visit following the 200 complaints received, as did before, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in 2012 and the Working Group on disappearances on 13 September 2013.
Torture usually occurred in the UAE by the members of the State Security forces, the prisons authorities like in the Al Rezin Prison (which is one of the most ill reputed prisons in UAE), Al Wathba prison and the famous secret prisons. UAE authorities often use torture to extract confessions. Everybody, UAE nationals as foreigners, activists, human rights defenders, journalists, families, professors, students, lawyers, businessmen, migrants… can be subjected to torture. The detainees are sometimes subjected to various forms of torture.
Torture methods commonly used include: beating, sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, electric shocks, uprooted nails, severe beatings in sensitive places with sharp objects, rape and death threats and constant intimidation, exposure to continuous bright lights for the destruction of nerves, threat to families, severe beatings, water boarding, mock executions, hooding and isolation, use of stress positions, sexual abuse, sexual assault, and the threat of sexual assault. Other practices those aim to destroy the mental, psychological and physical health of detainees and extort confessions are also used.
It is important to recall below the Declarations and Reservations of the UAE to the CAT convention, made upon its accession. Concerning its Reservations, the UAE stated, “In accordance with paragraph 1 of article 28 of the Convention, the United Arab Emirates declares that it does not recognize the competence of the Committee against Torture referred to in article 20 of the Convention.” And also “In accordance with paragraph 2 of article 30 of the Convention, the United Arab Emirates does not consider itself bound by paragraph 1 of article 30 relating to arbitration in this Convention.”
Concerning its Declaration, the UAE stated, “The United Arab Emirates also confirms that the lawful sanctions applicable under national law, or pain or suffering arising from or associated with or incidental to these lawful sanctions, do not fall under the concept of “torture” defined in article 1 of this Convention or under the concept of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment mentioned in this Convention.”
The ICJHR has reported these two cases of ill-treatment and torture:
The case of Salim Al-Aradi, a Libyan-Canadian national who has been detained for more than a year without charge, highlights systematic repression and human rights violations by the authorities in the UAE. In fact, Al-Aradi has been in detention since 29 August 2014. He was held in secret detention for several months after he was first arrested amidst credible allegations that state security officers have tortured him. His health has rapidly deteriorated and he has been denied access to adequate medical care.
Salim Al-Aradi’s wife was allowed to visit him only once since he was moved to Al-Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi. She said that he had lost a lot of weight and had a burn mark on his hand, suggesting he may have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated. Salim Al-Aradi is among 10 Libyan businessmen who were held in secret detention for several months. Four were released in December 2014 and deported to Turkey. The rest are still arbitrarily detained without charge.
His brother, Mohamed Al-Aradi, was also arrested few hours before him and was held in secret detention before being released nearly four months later and deported to Turkey without any explanation as to why he had been detained. Mohamed Al-Aradi has also said that, while in custody, he had suffered torture and other ill-treatment, including beatings and sleep deprivation He was denied access to his family and lawyers.
Solitary confinement is a cruel, inhuman punishment as a form of torture and an inhuman violation of prisoners’ rights. The isolation of prisoners seems to be a political will of prison authorities, which use it in an arbitrary manner to humiliate political prisoners and to condemn them to silence. The aim is to punish, demoralize and humiliate them. Solitary confinement has damaging effects on mental and somatic health on those subject to it especially that the measure often continues indefinitely. In 2015, we reviewed the case of:
Khalifa Al-Nuaimi and Ali Al-Khaja
On August 23, 2015 Khalifa Al-Nuaimi and Ali Al-Khaja, were subjected to harsh punishment as they were placed in solitary confinement for several days after they demanded their fundamental rights as prisoners of conscience. In fact, prisoners, especially political ones, who protest against condition inside prisons or ask for more rights are very often subjected to such punishment. It is also worth noting that on March 2014 Al Rezin authorities have put Khalifa Al-Nuaimi in solitary confinement, in a very small concrete cell without a bed or a chair. He was deprived of food for 24 hours and beaten, which caused visible bruises on his entire body.
In March 2015, Mansoor Al-Ahmadi has spent one week in solitary confinement only because he spoke to another prisoner. He was consequently questioned and forced to sign a paper that did not contain what he had said. When in solitary confinement, Al-Ahmadi was hand cuffed, shackled to the floor and prison’s officers refused several times his request to use the rest room. Besides, he was forced to sleep on a concrete floor which caused him severe back pain. He has also refused to eat for three days as a protest for this unfair treatment.
In September 2015, Al Rezin’s authorities have infringed a punishment upon Ahmed Al-Tabour, a human rights activist and the former director of Al-Islah association. They put him in solitary confinement for three days because they found a pen amongst his belongings. Al-Tabour was arrested in May 17, 2012 amongst the “UAE 94” group, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
5.Arbitrary detention and the unwarranted prolongation of pre-trial detention
Arbitrary detention is prohibited under Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of human rights, Article 9(1) of International Covenant on civil and political rights, article 14(1) of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, and Article 26 of the UAE Constitution. Yet, continuous cases of arbitrary and involuntary detention of Emirati and non-Emirati activists persist, as they become evidences of the abusive policy of the UAE government.
Omar Al Dabagh
In November 2015, this Syrian prisoner in Al Wathba prison started a hunger strike along with a number of other prisoners in order to make more pressure on Al Wathba’s administration to loosen restrictions and stop all violations against them. It is worth noting that the Federal Supreme Court has sentenced Omar Al Dabagh (30 years old), in December 2014, to 6 months in prison and deportation from the UAE as being condemned of passport’s falsification. Yet, UAE authorities have extended his sentence without any legal reason, which is considered as an arbitrary detention.
During Al Dabagh’s detention period, his family was not informed of his fate or his place despite the continuous inquiry in Abu Dhabi’s police station. UAE authorities have hidden all information related to him so the family was not able to appoint a defense lawyer. Many of his family members, who were present during the trial, said that Omar was not present at the beginning of the hearing and that he was brought only at the end to be heard by the judge.
In 2015, Omar has launched several appeals for help because of the deplorable condition of detention in Al-Wathba.
Ahmed Mohamed Al-Mulla, Badr Al Bahri and Abdullah Al-Helo
After more than 17 months, Ahmed Mohamed Al-Mulla, Badr Al Bahri and Abdullah Al-Helo are still in arbitrary detention in UAE without any trial or charge.
The last information received by the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR) highlights the fact that the human rights activists, Mr. Al-Helo and Mr. Al-Mulla, were transferred to the Al Wathba Prison in August 22, 2014. We recall that the State security officers in Dubai arrested the three men. Since then, they have been arbitrary detained for several months. They are until now detained without trial.
Salim Elaradi and Kamal Al-Darat
Salim Elaradi (Canadian/Libyan) and Kamal Al-Darat (American/Libyan), were victims of enforced disappearance and their health deteriorated. Mohamed Al-Aradi who was released in December 2014 reported scenes of horrific torture he suffered during his detention in secret. In August 2014, the UAE authorities detained 10 Libyans. Five of them are still detained in UAE.
Ryiadh AbdAlrazak Chkoukani
Emirati State security service in Sharjah gave Ryiadh AbdAlrazak Chkoukani, a Palestinian teacher, a 48 hours deadline to leave the country after detaining him arbitrarily for nine days on 11 May 2015 in very harsh conditions. Chkoukani has said that he was constantly under threat. He was put with 50 people, from different nationalities, in one single room, with only two bedrooms for approximately 100 people. Chkoukani added that he did not see the sun during the period of his detention. In fact, Sharjah police issued an arrest warrant against Chkoukani on 11 May 2015, despite the fact that he was granted the permission to finish his residency procedures as he works as a math teacher in a private school in Sharjah.
Mouawia Ben Salem Al Rawahi
Emirati state security apparatus arrested Omani blogger, Mouawia Ben Salem Al Rawahi on 24 February 2015, on the border between Oman and UAE and prevented him to return to his country despite the lack of any charge against him. Yet, he was able to contact a colleague who is a human rights defender, to tell him about his arrest. Since then, he was detained in total isolation, which raises serious concerns about his safety.
Besides, the ICJHR was informed that the detention of Al Rawahi is likely related to the exercise of his freedom of expression in his country.
Sameh Bassiouni Alam
Emirati authorities have arrested the Egyptian citizen Sameh Bassiouni Alam on 11 February 2015, in Dubai, and he was sentenced to one month in prison for “falsely reporting of a crime”. According to reliable sources, during his interrogation in Al-Muraqabat police station in Dubai, Alam was forced to sign a confession that he falsely reported to the police that a member of his wife’s family was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Moreover, many human rights organizations monitored several violations in this case.
Despite the fact that Alam served the whole period of his sentence, he is still detained in a secret place and he is facing the risk of torture as well as other forms of abuse, he was also put in solitary confinement. It is likely that the detention of Alam has a close link with the case of his brother in law, Islam Al-Makawi, who is one of 52 Egyptian persons accused of being involved in killing police guards of the judges in charge of Morsi’s case. However, according to our information, Alam does not have connections with any political organization.
The UAE security state apparatus uses this method as an oppressive strategy to spread terror and fear among dissidents, reformists or human rights activists. Enforced disappearances usually occur in secret prisons where torture is used. The UAE regime never gives their location, as they are hidden and denied. The UAE government does not recognize enforced disappearances and whereas families and relatives are looking for theirs. Even the victims who were forcibly disappeared, are released, they cannot remember the place of these secret prisons and are unable to determinate where they were detained.
According to Article 2 of International Convention for the protection of all persons from enforced disappearance, “enforced disappearances” is:
“The arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law”.
In UAE, enforced disappearance is a practice used by the security state apparatus as an oppressive strategy to spread terror and fear among dissidents, reformists, human rights activists and even lawyers representing other victims, which is considered as a grave human rights violation and a breach of the international law. In UAE, at least, nearly 180 individuals were detained; including 39 Emiratis are victims to enforced disappearances in addition to 14 Egyptian nationals, and 5 Libyans .
In fact, victims of enforced disappearance are in constant fear for their lives, isolated from the outside world and facing arbitrary detention without knowing the reasons. Having been removed from the protective precinct of the law and “disappeared” from society, they become deprived of all their rights.
They were arrested in November 2015. The four members of this family, the two sisters, Amina Mohammed Alabdouli (33 years old), Moza Mohammed Alabdouli (18 years old), and their brothers, Mosab Mohammed Alabdouli (25 years old) and Walid Mohammed Alabdouli, were taken by the UAE State Security Apparatus to an unknown location. Since their arrest and enforced disappearance, there is no information about the fate and the whereabouts of the Alabdouli.
Asma, Mariam, and Al Yazzyah Al-Suweidi were arrested on February 15, 2015 and remained in enforced disappearance before being released on 18 May, after spending three months in a secret detention for tweeting. It has been reported that their enforced disappearance might be linked to their on-line campaign for the release of their brother, Dr. Issa Al-Suwaidi, the Former Director of the Abu Dhabi Educational Zone and prisoner of conscience, who has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in the “UAE 94 trial”.
Dr. Naser Bin Ghaith
On 18 August 2015, the UAE State security authority arrested Dr. Naser Bin Ghaith at his work in Abu Dhabi, escorted him to his house in order to search it then took him to an unknown location.
Since his arrest, Bin Ghaith has been detained in a secret prison and authorities did not communicate any information. Hence, many organizations including the ICJHR have expressed serious concerns about his physical and psychological integrity.
Dr. Bin Ghaith was one of the UAE 5 that was arrested back in 2011 along with the activists Ahmed Mansoor, Fahad Salim Dalk, Ahmed Abdul-Khaleq, and Hassan Ali al-Khamis. They were accused of “publicly insulting” to UAE officials.
Abdulrahman Khalifa Salem Binsobeih
On December 18, 2015, Abdulrahman Khalifa Salem Binsobeih was kidnapped from the Island of Batam in Indonesia by five people from the UAE Embassy and six people of the Indonesian secret services and illegally extradited on Private Jet to the UAE where he is considered as an opponent of the regime. In fact, this Emirati who was a member of the Board of Al-Islah (Society for Reform and Social Guidance) in UAE was tried on July 2013 in the notorious case known as the “UAE 94” and sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison in UAE. Since then, the authorities refuse to give any information about his fate or his whereabouts.
Case of Dr. Amer al-Shawa
Following significant pressure, on 13 February 2015, UAE authorities released Dr. Amer Al-Shawa, an academic and Turkish businessman of Palestinian origin who remained for months in enforced disappearance. In fact, the police force of Dubai Airport arrested him on 2 October 2014, without a clear charge and he was detained for 5 months in an undisclosed location without informing his family about the reasons and the place of his detention.
SITUATION OF FAMILIES AND RELATIVES
The reprisals against the families and relatives of a prisoner of conscience or a dissident living abroad continue in UAE.
In 2015, we still recorded cases of travel ban, dismissal from employment, seizure of property, obstacles to pursue university studies, confiscation of income, refusal to renew passports, health card revoked, etc.
Case of Mohammed Al Nuaimi
In December 2015, UAE banned Mohammed Al Nuaimi, a disabled son of an exiled activist, Mr. Ahmed Al Nuaimi, one of the “UAE 94” Group and sentenced in absentia to 15 years imprisonment, from joining his family in United Kingdom (UK). In fact, Mohammed Al Nuaimi, 20 years old, has cerebral palsy, so, he is unable to speak or to move without assistance. He is being prevented from joining his parents and four siblings in the UK despite growing fears for his worsening physical and mental health. Moreover, he was rushed to hospital in Sharjah with a high fever. Although he recovered, he is still suffering from psychological problems. Despite the fact that his health is deteriorating, Mr. Al Nuaimi’s health card has been revoked, which makes it difficult for him to secure the treatment he requires.
Despite the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratified by the UAE on 19 March 2010 and the last recommendation of the CRC Committee on the rights of Children with disabilities (Rec. 54) , this country violated Mr. Al Nuaimi’s rights regarding the reunification of his family living abroad, his freedom of movement, as he is not
allowed to leave the UAE and travel to the UK and his right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health offered in UK.
Recommendations of CRC Committee
The children of human rights defenders or prisoners and exiles who were tried in the case of the “UAE 94” group are victims of the UAE authorities’ oppression. During the 70th session , the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has made crucial recommendations to the UAE. It recommended that the UAE refrained from harassing children of prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders. It particularly focused on continuous harassment of the children of parents sentenced to prison (Rec. 52). Referring to the specific case of the “UAE 94” defendants “the Committee reminds the State party of its obligation to ensure that children are protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions or beliefs of their parents and therefore recommends that the State party put an end to all forms of discrimination experienced by children of human rights defenders and political opponents.” Rec. 26
The Convention of the Rights of the Child protects children from harassment, intimidation and abuse as the result of the beliefs, opinions, assemblies or activities of their parents. The Article 10 of the CRC Convention relating to family reunification and allow the children to travel to meet the parents.
Women in the UAE are subjected to everyday injustice and human rights abuses. They have different rights based on citizenship status, nationality, occupation, political views, and political views of husband or relatives. For example, many professional Emirati women, and those who belong to the ruling class, are able to enjoy full social benefits, including free housing, health care and education, they are allowed more rights such as liberty of movement, access to information…etc. However, challenging social and cultural norms or political dogma and expressing their opinion prohibits most women as well as their families to enjoy their fundamental rights. Hence, women activists in addition to daughters, wives and mothers of male activists or reformers, find themselves on the margin of the UAE society. Many Emirati women, who claimed their rights or their families’ rights were persecuted, deprived of liberty, education and other basic rights to consequently become second-class citizens.
The Emirati Constitution, states in article 25 that “All persons are equal before the law, without distinction between citizens of the Union in regard to race, nationality, religious belief or social status”. This important text unfortunately lacks a legal prohibition of gender-based discrimination; there is no mention of sex as criteria of non-discrimination. Therefore, other national laws also lack this important detail. In this context, women face discrimination not only because of strict social norms but also because of the discriminatory laws.
Women in the UAE are not considered equal to men, as they still need a “male guardianship”, incorporated in UAE law, which denies women right to make autonomous decisions about marriage and other important issues. Besides, woman who takes work without her husband’s consent can be deemed “disobedient” under the law and face several forms of abuses.
Furthermore, the UAE has no specific law on domestic violence. While general Penal Code provisions, such as on assault, can apply to spousal abuse, UAE law fails to spell out protection measures and the responsibilities of police, courts, and other government agencies in addressing domestic violence and other abuse.
Migrant women, particularly those working in the informal sectors, have fewer benefits and even fewer rights, including employment protections.
During its last session , the Sixty-second session the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women listed all women’s rights, which are violated in UAE. The CEDAW committee made a number of recommendations, including those in relation to families and wives of the “UAE 94” group of prisoners and violence and harassment of wives …etc.
It’s important to end the discrimination against women, so, the “Committee urges the State party to repeal as a matter of priority all legal provisions which continue to discriminate against women, including those contained in the Penal Code and the Personal Status Law.” (Rec. 14).
The Committee CEDAW also outlined the fact that women human rights defenders as well as their relatives have allegedly been subjected to various forms of harassment. It particularly “recommends that the State party refrain from any action of reprisal against women rights defenders and their relatives and ensure prompt lifting of all administrative or other barriers placed on them and their families.” (Rec. 20).
2.Violations committed against women
Al Abdouli sisters
Amina Mohamed Al Abdouli as well as Mozah Mohamed Al Abdouli is in enforced disappearance, since 19 November 2015 as we said before, and threatened to be tortured. The only crime they have committed is posting tweets in memory of their father who passed away in Syria. Their detention and disappearance are considered as arbitrary, unfair and unjustified measures and a grave violation of their fundamental rights. Their house in Al-Fujairah was raided late at night and searched by individuals with civil clothes who took them to an unknown location without a warrant arrest of charges. Authorities did not communicate any information about the fate or whereabouts of the two sisters amidst great fear about their safety.
Last May, three sisters Mariem, Asma and Alyazyah Alsuweidi reunited with their family after spending three months in secret detention. The UAE authorities subjected them to enforced disappearance. They were detained after posting comments on Twitter on behalf of their brother, a prisoner of conscience in the Gulf state. They were summoned for questioning at Abu Dhabi police station on 15 February and then taken into the custody of the UAE’s state security apparatus. There was no reason for their detention.
THROUGH UAE LEGAL FRAMEWORK
At the regional level, the UAE has ratified the Arab Charter on Human Rights (Arab Charter) in January 2013 as a member of the League of Arab States.
At the international level, the UAE has ratified several international human rights instruments, including the Convention against torture and other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (CAT), the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW), the Convention on the rights of the child (CRC), and the International convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination (ICERD).
However, until 2015 the UAE has not yet ratified some important human rights treaties and their protocols , as the International covenant on civil and political rights (ICCPR), the International covenant on economic, social and cultural rights (ICESCR), and their Optional Protocols and the International convention for the protection of all persons from enforced disappearance, as well as the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OP-CAT).
1-The National Laws: Anti-terrorism Act
At the national level, the UAE Constitution, Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Law, and other laws contain many safeguards of rights and freedoms guaranteed by the international instruments to which this Country is a party, as freedom of movement, expression and association, fair trials, due process or prohibition of torture. In comparing the practicing of the UAE, we can say that UAE has failed to comply its entire legal framework with international law and standards on human rights. The abusive use of the counter-terrorism law in 2015 was considered as a serious threat to the freedoms in UAE.
On September 28, 2015, the trial of a group called “Al Manara” was started. They were charged according to the counter-terrorism law. Some of them suffer from respiratory disease, rheumatism and diseases due to the conditions of imprisonment. They were subjected to torture and ill-treatment such as uprooting nails, electric shock, isolation, beatings, being threatened by dogs etc…
This group includes 39 Emiratis, 1 Comorian, 1 Syrian and 3 fugitives. All of them accused of planning for terrorist acts inside the country. Khaled Kalantar, the head of this group, is among the accused, in addition to his five sons and two others from the same family.
In the same context, Abdallah Baloochi was arrested as he expressed his solidarity with his two brothers also arrested. He supported and defended them on Twitter. He was subjected to torture, solitary confinement, his mental health has severely deteriorated.
Nayef Al-Mulla, was married to a Syrian woman, which seems to be his only crime. He had no link to the Al Manara group.
Ali Salem Al Balooshi, 20 years old (the youngest), a Student of the Faculty of Medicine, was brutally arrested and tortured because he is the son of the detainee Salim Balooshi, arrested on 3 December, 2013. He was deprived of his studies and placed in isolation. His case is being looked at by the court. Ali does not have any contact with Al Manara group and does not share their religious and political views. He was arrested because he is the son of political prisoner.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, ASSOCIATION AND ASSEMBLY
The UAE government restricted the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and prosecuted critics using provisions of the Penal Code and the 2014 cybercrime law, even if it violates its own constitution. However, the UAE judicial system lacks independence, and prosecutions are often pursued for political reasons.
In 2015, online censorship is getting more extensive than before and the UAE seems to continue its efforts to silence dissent and restrict its rights of freedom of expression, association and assembly. Activists in social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Internet and press are still the victims of this country.
In effect, since the anti-terrorism law passed in August 2014, a number of people were charged and convicted under this law for their social-media activities, and the UAE measures continued to be enforced against the users in 2015. The denial of freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of assembly dominated the UAE government’s decisions. The limits on freedom of expression are only permitted in the UAE insofar as they are in line with the UAE public order and national security as it said, but in practice, it is an unacceptable infringement on freedom of expression.
While the UAE constitution provides for freedom of speech, the UAE authorities use their judicial, legislative, and executive laws to limit this right in practice. Despite the freedom of expression, which is prohibited in UAE’s instruments, this country, continues to restrict and prosecute peaceful critics, political dissidents and human rights activists as terrorists. The UAE is strongly criticized in particular for its restrictive cyber-crime laws, which prevent free speech on a number of subjects concerning human rights.
The anti-terrorism law is a pretext to justify repressive policies and trampling freedoms in the UAE. Any person who objects to the Emirati Government’s policy is referred to as terrorist to restrict his/her freedom of expression.
The Emirati authorities have blocked a number of websites used by human rights defenders, bloggers, and other activists online. There is a real fear of the confusion that may occur between the criminalization of terrorism and criminalization of dissent.
1.Freedom of association and assembly
According to the UAE constitution, the freedom of association and assembly is explicitly guaranteed. The Article 33 of the UAE Constitution states that “Freedom of assembly and establishing associations shall be guaranteed within the limits of law.”
In 2015, during its last session, the 70th session , the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has made crucial recommendations to the UAE, mostly to give more freedom to civil society. Indeed, the CRC Committee criticized the absence of an independent civil society in UAE.
Afterwards, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) also highlighted the lack of an independent civil society in UAE during its last session, the 62th . UAE authorities try to undermine, not only the United Nations human rights system, but also their civil society, all this under the pretext of countering terrorism, a kind of label that has become the weapon of choice for this regime to stifle any criticism.
2.Freedom of expression
According to the UAE constitution, the freedom of expression is explicitly guaranteed in two articles. Firstly, in its Article 30, which stipulates that, “Freedom of opinion and expressing it verbally, in writing or by other means of expression shall be guaranteed within the limits of law.” Secondly, in its Article 31 “Freedom of communication by post, telegraph or other means of communication and the secrecy thereof shall be guaranteed in accordance with law.”
Even, UAE restricted the rights to freedom of expression and prosecuted critics using provisions of the Penal Code (articles 372 about defamation and 378 about privacy). Freedom of expression is sometimes banned by the members of the State Security forces, the UAE authorities and others. They shall implement the articles of the UAE Constitution relating to freedom of expression. All prisoners of conscience and activists including human rights defenders judged because of their exercise of freedom of expression guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Arab Charter on Human Rights.
The UAE shall respect the right to freedom of expression and to reduce the recourse to judicial proceedings against persons who exercise this right. It shall take all measures to protect all human rights defenders, journalists and minorities from any discrimination, persecution and intimidation and improve its legislative framework to consolidate the rights of expression. It shall halt all persecution of human rights defenders and those peacefully expressing their opinions, including online activists and stop the control over the media organs and Internet.
Finally, the UAE shall implement its commitments made at the UN Council of Human Rights, particularly the point: 128-106 requiring the repeal of the federal law of 1980 on publications and modify all other laws to ensure compliance with the international law on human rights related to freedom of expression.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND INTERNET
Concerning social media and freedom of expression , the UAE was recently listed, with a score of 68, in the 68th position among the countries that censor the internet. It is known that many activists in UAE were arrested because of their activities on social Medias such as Osama Al-Najjar and recently the Omani blogger Mouawia Ben Salem Al Rawahi. Numerous Emirati users continue to serve long prison sentences for their online activities, mainly related to the UAE 94 trial. In UAE, the internet is heavily regulated in an attempt to quell legitimate free expression.
Muawiya al-Ruwahi, the Omani writer and blogger, was arrested on 23 February 2015 while crossing the UAE border from Oman. He is accused of posting tweets criticizing the UAE government.
The case of the three sisters, Asma Khalifa Al-Suwaidi, Mariam Khalifa Al-Suwaidi and Alyaziyah Khalifa Al-Suwaidi highlights restrictions on freedom of expression more than the fights against terrorism. The three sisters disappeared after the security forces of Abu Dhabi summoned them on February 15, 2015 after speaking out about their brother, who is a prisoner of conscience, on social media. In fact, the sisters spoke passionately on the Internet for the release of their brother without abuse or violation of the law.
The members of Alabdouli Family arrested were also accused of posting tweets on the death of their father in Syria. The last brother arrested because a Friday preaching on the arbitrary arrest of his brother and sisters.
Al Najjar Case
During the Human Rights Council’s 30th regular session (14 September to 2 October 2015), several reports have pointed out many cases in the UAE specifically the one regarding Mr. Al-Najjar, who was arrested without a warrant on 17 March 2014, and was interrogated and tortured for about four days in a State Security secret detention center. He had been actively defending his father, who is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for his peaceful activities, on Twitter and on his blog. He was sentenced to three years in prison. Mr. Al-Najjar also was the subject of the Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki Moon’s report . He is still in prison for having tweeting.
The ICJHR calls on the UAE authorities to implement recommendations made by UN bodies and international human rights organizations to:
1. Immediately and unconditionally release all those persons detained or imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association;
2. Release human rights defenders and political activists arbitrarily detained for expressing their opinion;
3. Immediately and unconditionally free all prisoners of conscience, including activists, academics, bloggers, lawyers or human rights defenders;
4. Reform anti-terrorism laws recently adopted so they cannot be used to silence peaceful dissent;
5. Pay due attention to the negative impact of terrorism on the enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in UAE, do not counter violent extremism, and stop fomenting it
6. Lift all restrictions on independent civil society organizations and free jailed human rights defenders and stop harassments of their families and relatives;
7. Lift all restrictions on peaceful dissent and prohibit the practice of secret detention;
8. Put an end to the practice of torture in detention centers and implement the UNCAT to fight against impunity, as well as enforced disappearance and secret or incommunicado detention;
9. Stop practicing torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearance, detention in secret centers, unfair trial
10. Institute safeguards against torture and other ill-treatment, and ensure that all complaints or allegations of torture and other ill-treatment are promptly, independently and thoroughly investigated;
11. Ensure that victims of torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, and other human rights violations really have access to effective remedies;
12. Ensure that all complaints or allegations of torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners are promptly, independently and thoroughly investigated
13. Ensure that all persons deprived of their liberty receive a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial Court in accordance with international human rights standards, including by having the right to appeal the judgment before a higher court or tribunal;
14. Amend any legislation which impermissibly restricts the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, with a view to bringing all of these laws into full conformity with the UAE’s obligations under international human rights law;
15. Ratify the International Covenant on civil and political rights, the International Covenant on economic, social and cultural rights and their Optional Protocols, as well as the International Convention for the protection of all persons from enforced disappearance;
16. Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and really allow independent international bodies to regularly visit the UAE places of detention to assess the conditions of detention and make recommendations for their improvement
17. Respect their international and regional obligations regarding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the Arab Charter on Human Rights
18. Also respect the Standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners, the Basic principles for the treatment of prisoners and the Body of principles for the protection of all persons under any form of detention or imprisonment
19. Permit the free exchange of peaceful ideas online and in the media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Newspapers or Television;
20. As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, comply with UN treaties and mechanisms, cooperate with the international community in promoting reform and human rights;