International Centre for Justice and Human Rights
The United Arab Emirates:
Statement on the sixth anniversary of the UAE petition of reform
Geneva, March 3, 2017
Six years have passed since the submission of the petition of reform by a group of human rights activists, academics, consultants and former government officials on March 3, 2011 to President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and to the members of the Federal Supreme Council calling for free election of the members of the Federal National Council by all the citizens and the reformation of its legislations which will render it full legislative and controlling powers and making necessary constitutional amendments to ensure the aforementioned.
Emirati authorities considered the petition as inciting to disobedience and non-compliance with the law and thus, putting the state security at risk, violating public order and insulting the President of the country. Additionally, the UAE's state security apparatus systematically targeted a number of human rights activists and bloggers, who were among the signatories of the petition, and has seriously harassed them by using different means of torture and ill-treatment in addition to arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance in secret detention centres to where they were taken blindfolded and encountered Nepali guards at the gates, where their physical and moral safety were jeopardized.
In fact, many letters have testified different methods of torture and ill-treatment exercised by the Emirati authorities against the detainees which affected their dignity and sanctity including letters sent by certain petitioners namely, Dr. Ahmed Yousef Buatabh Zaabi, Abdullah Mahdi Saleh, Abdul Rahim Zaanouni, Abdul Rahim Abdul Allah al Naky, Abdul salam al Marzouki and Abdullah Abdul-Qader Al-Hajri and other detainees within the well-known "UAE 94".
Unfair trials were also held against the reformists, jurists, politicians and bloggers who signed the petition and most of them failed to meet the basic fair trials guarantees in particular the right to counsel, the presumption of innocence and the exclusion of confessions extracted under torture. Besides, the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court has issued final judgments prohibiting any appeal and sentenced those convicted within the case of the "UAE5", "UAE 7", "UAE 94" and other issues to long period-imprisonment.
The detainees were judged on the basis of vague laws that can be misinterpreted and misused in order to allow the state security apparatus to arrest peaceful opponents, reformists, human rights activists and bloggers such as the Federal Law No. 7 of 2014 on combating terrorist crimes, which has used counter-terrorism as a pretext to undermine the rights and freedoms and to abolish all aspects of plurality in addition to resolving any association, confiscating its properties and imprisoning its founders without giving them the right to appeal and to have fair trial guarantees as well as the Federal Law No. 5 for 2012 on combating cybercrimes has also been used as a tool to criminalize and punish activists over blog posts and Tweets.
The International Centre for Justice and Human Rights has documented the violations committed by the UAE officials against the reformists and human rights activists who signed the petition and were exposed to torture in Emirati prisons such as Al Rezin, Al Wathba and Al Sadr. These violations have also affected families of the detainees during their visit to their imprisoned sons in clear breach of the UN Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.
Moreover, UAE authorities have also revoked Emirati nationality from human rights activists and politicians who were among the signatories as well as from their wives and children and have deprived them from their right to administrative and judicial appeal against this decision. Sheikh Mohammed Abdul-Razzaq al-Siddiq, for instance, who is one of the petitioners of reform and is currently detained at Al Resin prison serving a 10 years of imprisonment within the known case of the "UAE 94", was stripped of his citizenship along with his children Asma, Omar and Du’a.
Until today, Emirati government does not fulfill its pledges made during the Universal Periodic Review before the Human Rights Council in 2013 on establishing a national human rights institution in accordance with the Principles relating to the status of national institutions (the Paris Principles) and accelerating the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other international treaties in addition to allowing the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders as well as other international human rights organizations to inspect the UAE commitment and respect of international standards when dealing with the prisoners.
In 2016, the country was in 68th position out of 100 on the Net Freedom Index, and has been ranked 119 out of 180 in the Press Freedom Index, in addition to the fact that the global democracy index ranked the system of governance in the UAE as an "authoritarian rule".
Therefore, the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights calls on the UAE to:
- Release immediately and unconditionally all prisoners of conscience, human rights defenders and political activists in the UAE and conduct an immediate and impartial investigation by an independent body on their exposure to torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, and hold accountable all those involved in these violations and give the prisoners their full right to remedy and work on their rehabilitation.
- Promptly fulfill the pledges made by the United Arab Emirates following the Universal Periodic Review before the Human Rights Council in 2013, including the establishment of an independent national human rights institution and strengthening the UAE's cooperation with international human rights mechanisms, as well as accepting international human rights accountability mechanisms, in addition to continuing the dialogue with civil society institutions regarding the human rights files and establishing a permanent forum to facilitate this dialogue and provide greater mutual understanding and build the capacity of those associated within the Interior Ministry in the field of human rights and organize specific training sessions to each of these rights and join many UN conventions.