Geneva, 02 November 2015
The International Center for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR) is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) based in Geneva. The main aim of the Center is to end all forms of human rights violations in the Gulf Region especially the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and to fulfil the respect for fundamental freedoms, in accordance with regional and international human rights mechanisms.
Thank you Madam Chair,
We would like to highlight the suffering of women engaged in human rights activism and women relatives of human rights defenders in the UAE who face discrimination on a daily basis.
Since July 2013, UAE authorities led a crackdown on many activists who signed a reformist petition. 94 Emirati, including 13 women, were convicted of national security charges after unfair trial. Many of them were prominent human rights lawyers, academics, judges, teachers and students. They were denied their fundamental rights but even worse, their relatives face every day persecution.
The UAE applies double standards when it comes to the rights of women, as it does with all human rights in general. Women dissidents, those who express their points of views and daughters, wives as well as mothers of human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience are subjected to various forms of harassment and intimidation:
- Women who were tried within the “UAE 94” group: They were subjected to travel and job bans despite their acquittal and many of their children were also subjected to travel, study and work bans.
- Arbitrary transfer from functions: a number of women, who are relatives of detainees, have been transferred without reasons from their jobs in the Ministry of education (administrators and teachers) to other ministries.
- Higher education ban: security authorities intervened directly in the work of schools and universities and deprived a number of girls to continue their education because of the political affiliation of their fathers. Despite the fact that UAE pledged before the Human Rights Council in 2013 to promote the enrollment of girls in secondary and higher education as well as the participation of women in the professional and political area (recommendation No. 128-100), it continued its discriminatory practices against women.
- Travel ban: The article 29 of the Emirati Constitution states that the freedom of movement and residence is guaranteed to all citizens within the limits of the law. However, authorities do not only prevent the dissidents to travel but also their wives and daughters. Since the conviction of the “UAE 94” group, the authorities have taken arbitrary measures against wives and daughters of political prisoners and activists. This is a violation of article 15, paragraph 4, of CEDAW convention.
- Livelihood targeted: The families of prisoners of conscience suffer from collective punishment and intimidation. We registered numerous cases, in which wives of prisoners of conscience are targeted in livelihood by freezing salaries, preventing families from funds, disabling procuration and appropriating properties.
- Threats of arrest and fabrication of charges: We have reported cases of arbitrary detention as well as enforced disappearance amongst families of dissidents and political prisoners, such as the three sisters, Asma, Mariam and Alyaziah Khalifa Al-Suwaidi. They disappeared for three months after being summoned last February by Abu Dhabi security forces due to their advocacy on social media for their brother’s cause, who was sentenced to 10 years of prison in the “UAE 94” trial. During their detention, the three sisters were denied their right to consult a lawyer and were hidden in a secret prison.
The wives, mothers, daughters and sisters of prisoners are often exposed to ill-treatment during their visits to Rezin prison such as visits ban without prior communication despite the fact that they travel very long distances.
Thus, the ICJHR urges the Committee to make the following recommendations to the UAE government:
- Respect its international obligations pledged during the 2008 UPR, which include articles that guarantee women’s rights.
- Comply with CEDAW articles relevant to the right of women to form independent associations, to express freely their opinion and to be effectively active without restrictions based on sex, religion, opinion and beliefs.
- Respect the articles 1, 3, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11 and 15 of CEDAW Convention.
- Stop the oppression of women activists and recognize the right of women to exercise political and associative activity without fear or restriction of freedom.
- Refrain from preventing families and wives of prisoners from visiting their husbands and join those who are outside the country to preserve family unity for the best interest of children.
- Allow the daughters of detainees to enjoy their full legitimate rights such as equal access to education, scholarship and employment.
- Immediately and unconditionally, release all prisoners of conscience as well as political prisoners who were tried unfairly.
- Refrain from practicing arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance against human rights activists, dissidents as well as their children and relatives.