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Geneva, October 15, 2015

During the Human rights Council’s 30th regular session (14 September to 2 October 2015), several reports highlighted Countries’ efforts to comply with international standards and the UN human rights mechanisms. These reports havepointed out many cases in the United Arab Emirates specifically the one regarding Mr. Al-Najjar.

In his Report (A/HRC/30/29) addressed to the Human Rights Council, on 17 August 2015, on the occasion of its 30th session, the Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki Moon highlighted cases of reprisals in many countries including in UAE. He recalled that the case of Osama Al-Najjar, who had reportedly become the subject of reprisals after meeting with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Ms. Gabriela Knaul, during her visit to the UAE on February 2014, was included in his previous report. In fact, as a reply to the Special Procedures Branch’s letter dated 2 April 2014, the UAE government clarified the situation of Mr. Osama Al-Najjar and mentioned procedural guarantees that have been put in place. Besides, in his report of 4 March 2015, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders recalled that the UAE Government had not responded to the earlier communication dated 16 April 2014 and he also stated that he was still awaiting a detailed response from the UAE Government to the allegations and questions raised (A/HRC/28/63/Add.1, paras. 554-555).

The Communications report of Special Procedures (A/HRC/30/27) addressed on 4 September 2015, to the Human Rights Council in its 30th regular session has mentioned the names of some victims such as Al-Najjar. In fact, the Mandates of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment bringto the OHCHR’s attention the case of Al-Najjar in their letter of 2 April 2015 (https://spdb.ohchr.org/hrdb/30th/public_-_UA_UAE_02.04.15_%282.2015%29.pdf). The allegation was transmitted to the UAE. According to the information received by the Special Procedures Branch, Mr. Osama Al-Najjar was arrested without a warrant on 17 March 2014, he was interrogated and tortured for about four days in a State Security secret detention centre. He had been actively defending his father, who is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for his peaceful activities, on Twitter and on his blog. During the four-day interrogation, Mr. Al-Najjar was particularly questioned about his meeting with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers during her official country visit. On 21 March 2014, Mr. Al-Najjar was transferred to Al-Wathba prison and was held in pre-trial detention for over six months without having access to a lawyer. His trial started on 23 September 2014 before the Federal Supreme Court. Despite serious allegations of violations of fundamental due process and fair trial guarantees, Mr. Al-Najjar was sentenced to three years in prison. He was the subject of a previous communication dated 16 April 2014. In a letter sent to the Special Procedures branch, dated 30 April 2015, the UAE has presented a different testimony. According to the UAE, authorities had a search warrant delivered by the public prosecution that enabled them to search Mr. Najjar as well as his house in presence of relatives, including his mother and brother. Yet, whether this warrant was issued or not remains to be confirmed.

The UAE claimed that Mr. Najjar was informed that the Public Prosecution was in charge of the investigations related to his case, he knew the charges against him and he was duly asked by the Public Prosecution if he had something to add regarding the investigations. However, Mr. Najjar did not mention that he was subjected to torture, ill-treatment or degrading treatment. Since no complaint was submitted, the Public Prosecution did not order any investigation in this regard. The International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR) has received information that was not in line with the UAE’s letter. The ICJHR has many evidences proving that Mr. Al-Najjar was subjected to torture. Furthermore, in its letter to the OHCHR of 2 April 2015, the Special Procedures Branch stated that Mr. Al-Najjar was taken to the medical clinic in Al-Wathba prison to be examined as he suffered from marks of torture throughout his body. He presented scars on his feet as he was beaten with a wire. However, the doctor’s report did not include these details.

Besides, the UAE stated that Mr. Najjar was convinced on 25 November 2015 after he was charged of inciting to hatred against the State, as well as creating and managing a Website with the purpose of spreading cynical and libelous ideas and information about State institutions. He has been sentenced to 3 years in prison and fined. In its letter to the OHCHR on 2 April 2015, the Special Procedures Branch wrote that Mr. Al-Najjar was arbitrary arrested, detained, tortured and convicted in reprisal of his cooperation with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and his peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Mr. Al-Najjar had been actively defending his father, Mr. Hossain al-Najjar, one of the 94 persons tried in a case referred to as the “UAE 94”, who is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for his peaceful activities, and other persons from the UAE 94, on Twitter and on his blog. Under UAE domestic legislation, the decisions of the Federal Supreme Court are final and binding and cannot be appealed even when considering cases in first instance.

In the Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (A/HRC/30/38) dated 10 August 2015 sent to the Human Rights Council, the Working Group gives relevant statistics, that clarify the human rights situation in the UAE and its efforts to achieve its international obligations.

Concerning Communications, during the reporting period, the Working Group transmitted cases of enforced disappearance, under the urgent action procedure to the UAE. Although the Working Group clarified 65 cases the UAE has only clarified two cases. 32 cases out of 65 were clarified according to information provided by the Government, and 33 according to information provided by other sources.

Concerning country visits, on 13 September 2013, the Working Group requested an invitation to undertake a visit to the country. No response yet has been received from the Government in spite of a reminder sent on 27 October 2014. The Working Group hopes that a positive reply will be received soon.

In fact, the visits allow the Working Group to highlight measures that the governments take to reduce enforced disappearance and to assist countries such as the UAE to reduce obstacles to implement the Declaration and to ensure direct contact with the family members of victims.

UAE Statistical summary: cases of enforced or involuntary disappearance reported to the Working Group between 1980 and 2015, and general allegations transmitted

States/entities Cases transmitted to the Government Cases clarified by: Status of person at date of clarification Discontinued cases Closed cases General Allegation
Outstanding cases Total Government Sources At liberty In detention Dead GA sent Response
Cases Female Cases Female
United Arab Emirates 16 3 36 3 2 18 4 16 - - - - -

In the Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (A/HRC/30/36) of 10 July 2015 sent to the Human Rights Council in this occasion of its 30th session, the Working Group stated that in 2014, under its regular procedure, it adopted several opinions concerning the detention of many persons in some countries like UAE. It transmitted several urgent appeals to UAE Government concerning many individuals, in order to take measures to remedy the situation of detainees, but the UAE failed to remedy the situation of its detainees, especially when it comes to human rights defenders or activists. In some cases, detainees were released; in other cases, the Working Group was assured that the detainees concerned would be guaranteed a fair trial.

Opinions adopted at the sixty-ninth, seventieth and seventy-first sessions of the Working Group concerning arbitrary detention include the case of Khalifa Rabia Najdi (opinion No. 12/2014 (UAE)), and other 13 cases (opinion No. 56/2014 (UAE)), such as Saleh Farag Dhaifullah, Ahmad Mahmoud Taha, Medhat Mohamed Mustafa Al Ajez, Ali Ahmad Ibrahim Sonbol, Ahmad Gafar, Abdulmoneim Ali Al Said Atyea and Mourad Mohamed Hamed Othman.

Recommendations

The ICJHR urges the UAE to:

  1. Provide reliable information about the circumstances of Mr. Al-Najjar arrest and refrain from misleading the special procedures
    1. Provide details, results, investigations, medical examinations, and judicial or other inquiries which may have been carried out in relation to the allegations of torture and ill-treatment
  2. Explain the lack of investigations about allegations of torture
    1. Provide information concerning the legal grounds for the arrest and detention of Mr. Al-Najjar and how these measures are compatible with international norms and standards as stated, inter alia, in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Arab Charter on Human Rights
  3. Provide detailed information concerning the trial of Mr. Al-Najjar, including information on his access to legal representation
    1. Explain how the trial was in line with due process and fair trial guarantees, as enshrined, in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the Arab Charter on Human Rights, and Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers
    2. Explain how the fact that Mr. Al-Najjar was not provided with the possibility to appeal his conviction is in line with the provisions found in international human rights norms and standards
    3. Indicate what kind of measures have been taken to ensure that human rights defenders in the UAE can operate in a safe and enabling environment and interact freely with the United Nations and its human rights mechanisms without fear of harassment, stigmatization or criminalization of any kind.