International Day in Support of victims of torture The practice of torture thrives in a climate of impunity in the UAE

Geneva, June 26, 2019

On June 20, 2018, the UAE authorities submitted their report on torture to the UN Committee against Torture, stating that they are following all legal and institutional guarantees in order to prevent torture and ill-treatment and grant the victims the right to appeal, complain and seek judicial redress.

However, the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR) notes with concern the huge gap between the situation depicted by the government in its report and the actual human rights situation in the UAE, which remains extremely alarming. In fact, political activists and human rights defenders continue to be detained in very bad conditions in Emirati detention facilities, exposed to torture and ill-treatment, and are deprived of their most fundamental rights to reparation and redress.

In 2018, the ICJHR received leaked recordings of detainees Amina Al-Abdouli, Maryam Al-Ballushi and Alya Abdulnoor – who recently died, – in which they talked about their exposure to torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention in Al-Wathba prison, contrary to the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance and the right to preserve their dignity.

Amina Al-Abdouli, who was arrested on November 19, 2015, was put in a narrow cell without windows and beaten on the face and head until fainting. Maryam Al-Ballushi, a 19-year-old student at her final year in the Technical College at the time of her arrest, also arrested in November 2015, was tortured, beaten up and threatened with rape.

Alya Abdulnoor was also abused and tortured despite her cancer. She was chained, deprived from sleeping, forced to stand for hours, threatened and intimidated. Deprived of proper medical care, Alya Abdulnoor died in May 4, 2019 after cancer had spread to her entire body. In her last days, the authorities continued to refuse to release her on medical grounds to spend her remaining days with her family and she died in custody under inhuman circumstances.

It is noteworthy to mention that the Public Prosecution did not take any serious measures to investigate the allegations of torture and ensure that those found responsible for these crimes are brought to justice.

The UAE authorities are still refusing to recognise the competence of Committee against Torture to consider complaints or conduct inquiries according to Article 20 and 22 of the Convention against Torture. The Emirati government also refuses to ratify essential human rights instruments, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. In fact, this Optional Protocol allows the Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture to conduct visits in all the detention facilities under the jurisdiction of the State party and supervise the implementation by the State Party of the national mechanisms for the prevention of torture.

During the Universal Periodic Review of 2018, the UAE authorities pledged to set a national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles, competent to monitor detention facilities and conduct independent and unannounced visits.

Nonetheless, they did not fulfil their pledge and they have not given any clear-cut answer to the request of the UN Special Rapporteur on torture to visit the detention facilities in the UAE, so they can cover up their human rights violations and the systematic abuse of the prisoners.

The International Centre for Justice and Human Rights remains concerned about these violations and therefore calls upon the authorities of the United Arab Emirates to:

  1. Immediately release all prisoners of conscience arbitrarily detained in the UAE;
  2. Conduct a prompt and serious investigation by an independent body regarding the allegations of torture and ill-treatment, hold accountable those responsible and grant them effective remedy and proper redress;
  3. Establish an independent national human rights institution in full compliance with the Paris Principles.
  4. Allow the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other international institutions to visit and monitor detention facilities in the UAE;
  5. Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, its two optional protocols, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

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