Despite the deteriorating human rights situation, the UAE intends to present its candidacy to Human Rights Council for 2022-2024


This post is also available in: arالعربية (Arabic)

Geneva, September 16, 2020

The ICJHR has learned that the UAE Government has been organizing a number of meetings during this summer in order to start the project of a Human Rights Committee, as recommended by many international organizations and bodies, including the Third Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights. The committee is among the country’s priorities as they are all set to launch the UAE’s candidacy campaign for the membership of the Human Rights Council for the period of 2022-2024. 

While the Centre appreciates this step made by the UAE officials to implement part of the recommendations of the UPR, however, it is necessary to unveil the real human rights situation in the country and enumerate the violations committed against political opponents and human rights activists in addition to the UAE failure to fulfil the pledges made during the 2018 UPR.

The situation of human rights defenders

It is necessary to take a deep look into the situation of human rights defenders in the UAE, since massive crackdowns are still occurring against political opponents, the latest of which is the arrest and trial of the activist Ahmed Mansoor. 

Prisoners of conscience are still detained in Emirati jails despite the multiple demands calling for their freedom and the confirmation of the arbitrary nature of detention by the UN agencies and the extraction of confessions under torture in addition to the denial of fair trial guarantees and the violation of the inmates’ humanity.

More than seven years have passed since the trial of the UAE 94 group on July 2, 2013, and more than eight years have passed since their arrest in July 2012, after charging them with conspiracy against the ruling regime, for demanding political reforms in the country.

Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith is languishing in jail since his arrest on August 18, 2015. He is one of the most important experts in Islamic finance in UAE, who was detained for posting a tweet in which he criticized the human rights violations in Egypt.

Activist Ahmed Mansoor had the same fate. He was arrested by the State Security Service on March 20, 2017 for standing up with the victims of human rights violations on social media. 

Dr. Muhammad Al-Roken, was arrested on July 17, 2012, within the UAE 94 group. He had received many awards while being imprisoned, by a number of international organizations that have expressed solidarity with him and his struggle for freedom of expression.  

Although some prisoners of conscience have completed their sentence, the UAE authorities refuse to release them and continue to arbitrarily detain them in counseling centers, without a maximum time limit or the right to appeal against the decision, as they are considered a “terrorist threat”. According to the Anti-Terrorism Law, the term “terrorist threat” can be used against any person which facilitates the abuse of counseling centers to arrest human rights defenders, political activists and bloggers.

Some of the detainees who are still imprisoned in counseling centers despite the completion of their terms include:

  • Activist Mahmoud Al Hosani who finished his sentence on July 16, 2019, and was arrested on July 16, 2012 as part of what is known as the UAE94 group
  • The two brothers Abdullah and Fahad Al-Hajri: Abdullah Al-Hajri was supposed to be released on July 12, 2019, and his brother, Fahd Al-Hajri, on March 2, 2020.
  • Ahmed Muhammad Al-Mulla and Abdullah Al-Hilu, they consequently finished their sentence on May 1, 2017 and April 22, 2017 and are currently held in a counseling center in Al-Razeen Prison.
  • Saeed Al-Buraimi: His sentence ended on March 26, 2018 and he is still detained in Al-Razin Prison.
  • Mansour Al-Ahmadi: He was arrested on October 12th, 2012 and should have been release since October 12th, 2019.
  • Faisal Ali Al-Shehhi: He finished his prison term since April 22, 2017
  • Abdulwahid Hassan Badi: should have been released since March 26, 2018
  • Imran Al-Radwan Ali Al-Harithi has ended his sentence since July 16, 2019
  • Khalifa Rabiah completed his prison term since July 23, 2018

Meanwhile, the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, pardoned a number of the detainees after forcing them to deny the violations they were subjected to, which happened with Osama Al-Najjar, Badr Al-Bahri and Othman Al-Shehhi.

Blackout during COVID-19 

The ICJHR has previously confirmed that prisoner of conscience, Abdullah Awad Al-Shamsi, has been diagnosed with COVID-19 at al Wathba prison. Al Shamsi was tortured and abused in order to extract confessions from him and confirm his relations with the State of Qatar. He was transferred to Al-Wathba prison and subjected to degrading treatment and health neglect.

Several families weren’t able to communicate with their imprisoned sons for more than three weeks; they were prevented from any visits more than four months without due reason, especially since it can be carried out through glass, thus maintain distance.

Al-Razeen Prison administration have also denied activist Hassan Munif Al-Jabri the right to communicate with his family for more than seven months, whereas al Sadr Prison authorities also prevented human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor from having family visits since the holy month of Ramadan, which raised the family’s fears about his possible infection with Coronavirus.

Families of the detainees are quite concerned about the detainees’ contamination with the virus especially after its outbreak inside Emirati prisons.  No sanitary measures were adopted by the authorities; on the contrary, there is a lack of cleaning materials and face masks. Social distancing is nearly impossible inside the rooms and wards in addition to the health negligence and denial of adequate medical care for the infected in the UAE’s notorious detention facility.

Emirati Prison Authorities refuse to disclose the true number of infected inmates and lack transparency in dealing with this pandemic. They have also denied permission to international organizations and rapporteurs, including the Special Rapporteur on Health, to visit its jails and detention centers to ensure that their compliance with relevant international standards.

In fact, 31 inmates in ward n°9 had tested positive, while one case was found in ward No. 4 on the 16th of April, and another in ward No. 6.

The virus has not only affected Emirati detainees. Indeed, family of Lebanese detainee Ahmed Sobh, who was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, confirmed that he had contracted Coronavirus in Al-Wathba Prison. They further affirmed that other Lebanese inmates, including Hussein Barda, Abdul Rahman Shoman, Ali Al-Mabdar, Abdullah Hani Abdullah and Ahmed Makkawi have showed early symptoms of the epidemic including fever, weakness and fatigue.

National Human Rights Commission

The ICJHR learned that the National Human Rights Commission had held three meetings headed by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar bin Muhammad Gargash. The meeting was about the progress in the work of the commission in accordance with the Paris Principles.   

The UAE authorities’ establishment of an independent national human rights body in accordance with the Paris Principles came in delay after a long time. It had pledged to do so since the UPR of 2013 and 2018. However, the progress is real slow steps and the authorities are resorting to the policy of procrastination in implementing the rest of the recommendations that were issued by the UPR or by the UN mechanisms. The Centre did also not see any seriousness from UAE government to join international treaties, ratify optional protocols and lift its reservations on a number of conventions that it has previously joined.  

In view of the above, the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights urges the authorities of the United Arab Emirates to:

1. Immediately release all prisoners of conscience and investigate their exposure to all human rights violations and hold accountable the responsible before an impartial judiciary. The authorities shall also grant the victims the right to remedy, repair and rehabilitation.

2. Release all those who have finished their sentences but are still detained in counseling centers and refrain from depositing human rights activists, bloggers and political opponents in counseling centers despite the completion of their terms. 

3. Publish the lists of people diagnosed with Coronavirus in prisons and provide all necessary precautions to prevent its spread and ensure the necessary medical care for the infected.

4. allow the detainees to communicate with their families, lawyers, international organizations and bodies, even remotely via phone or Internet, and put an end to their sufferings.

5. Implement the recommendations of the 2018 Universal Periodic Review and all other recommendations issued by the women’s rights and children’s rights committees and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. 

This post is also available in: arالعربية (Arabic)

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