Geneva, 27 June 2018
On the 27th of June 2018, on the occasion of the 38th session of the Human Rights Council, COJEP International, International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR) and the Arab Organisation for Human Rights UK (AOHR-UK) held a side-event at the Palais des Nations. The purpose of the event was to focus on the United Arab Emirates’ use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment against women detained in the country’s prisons. The panel also considered domestic and international remedies to improve the human rights violations faced by these women.
The event started with playing the recording and testimony of prisoner of conscience, Amina Alabdouli, which the ICJHR received on 19th May 2018. In this recording she recounts her experience of torture and ill-treatment in UAE prison.
The event was chaired by Sian Reeves, barrister-at-law at Temple Garden Chambers, London. She introduced the panellists and shed some light on the urgency of addressing the topic under consideration.
Rhys Davies, barrister-at-law at Temple Garden Chambers, London, and a member of the List of Counsel of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and that for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), spoke about the prevailing legal and political culture of discrimination against women in the UAE which then pervades its prisons. He spoke about how the issues of torture and ill-treatment of women in the UAE are not isolated events but there has in fact, been a systematic use of the same. Davies highlights how many provisions of the UAE law, such as Article 53 of the UAE Penal Code, fails to acknowledge the equality of men and women and the existence of women’s rights.
Clara Gerard-Rodriguez, international lawyer, spoke about the use of torture and ill-treatment in detention centres abroad that are managed by the UAE, paying particular attention to the detention centre in South Yemen, in the port of Aden. Women are subject to sexual violence, abuse and torture in these detention centres. She also discussed questions of legal responsibility and accountability in these situations.
Myles Grandison, barrister-at-law at Temple Garden Chambers, London spoke about cases of extradition in the UAE, and the extradition treaty between the UK and the UAE. He also spoke about how if any improvement in the human rights situation in UAE, especially for women prisoners, is to improve, it is crucial that the UAE sets up an independent judiciary, ratifies the relevant international standards and opens up its prisons to be inspected by UN Special Procedures.
Jean- Baptiste Maillart, Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for International and Foreign Criminal Law discussed the international legal remedies present to address the use of torture against women in UAE prisons. He spoke about how the UAE is not party of the International Criminal Court or the Rome Statute and must be encouraged to sign up to the same. He also spoke about the value of UN Special Procedures while addressing questions of the use of torture in the UAE prisons.
A victim, whose name will be kept confidential, shared her experience of torture in UAE prisons. She was imprisoned in 2016 and subject to physical and psychological abuse, interrogation, denial of medical facilities and shoved into overcrowded prison facilities. She currently suffers from PTSD in the aftermath of her experiences in prison. The victim also describes prisoner of conscience Alia Abdulnour’s suffering in prison who she says was treated worse than any other prisoner. She was denied medical facilities, which is made worse by the fact that she suffers from cancer. She is beaten and abused by the prison authorities and has become weak and incapable.