The family of Abdul-Salam Darwish and other prisoners of conscience face systematic harassment in the UAE

This post is also available in: arالعربية (Arabic)

Geneva, on January 30, 2019

The situation of prisoners of conscience in the United Arab Emirates continues to raise serious concerns among the civil society. Allegations of torture, ill-treatment, deprivation of family visits and other measures, are all part of the repressive measures suffered by prisoners of conscience in the UAE.


But what is all the more concerning is the situation of the detainees’ families, who have suffered constant harassment and arbitrary measures for years.


Lately, the wife of prisoner of conscience Abdul-Salam Darwish called on Emirati president and prime minister on social media to end the suffering of her family and put an end to the repression and harassment they have faced for years. Awatif Darwish expressed her distress in front of the unfair treatment she and her children have been exposed to since the arrest of her husband in July 2012.


Ms Darwish also called on Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid to end the systematic violations against her husband at Al-Razeen prison, where he is subjected to daily ill-treatment and is denied warm clothing and blankets during winter time. She further urged the rulers to end the suspension of payment of her husband’s retirement pension which deprives her and her children of their only source of income. Since last year, the UAE has in fact suspended the payment of the retirement pensions of several retired prisoners of conscience.


Ms Darwish further denounced the unfair measures faced by her children and called upon the rulers to hold accountable all those responsible for suspending her sons’ treatment during their medical travel abroad. This cry for help hasn’t received any response from the authorities so far, and the situation of the family and their daily suffering remain unchanged. Today, without the retirement pension of her husband, Awatif Darwish and her children cannot meet their basic needs without the generosity of a few donors.


Abdul-Salam Darwish was the head and the initiator of the Family Conciliation Service at Dubai courts, where he helped many families avoid divorce. Since the creation of this conciliation process as part of divorce trials, the divorce rate is said to have dropped from 42 to 21%. He also represented the UAE in important international events abroad about sociology and family issues. Darwish was hoping to help reform the Emirati society and reinforce the development of his country by improving the family conditions in every home in the UAE.


He was arrested on July 24, 2012, and detained incommunicado for almost a year to be charged with “plotting to overthrow the government” and other unfounded charges for signing a reform petition in 2011. Abdul-Salam Darwish was sentenced to 10 years in prison after a grossly unfair trial, known as the “UAE 94” trial.


Awatif Darwish and her family are not the only ones to be targeted by the authorities and face reprisals their detained loved ones. Most families of prisoners of conscience are facing the same arbitrary measures. Some have been denied the right to renew their identity documents depriving them of health care, education, and other basic State services. Others have even been stripped of their Emirati citizenship.

The International Centre for Justice and Human Rights calls on the Emirati authorities to immediately grant the detainees’ families their rights and protect them from all forms of harassment and reprisals. The collective punishment of an entire family is a serious violation of international law and should immediately be stopped. We urge the UAE to protect the families and grant them all their rights without any discrimination based on the conviction of a relative.


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This post is also available in: arالعربية (Arabic)

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