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Weapon of terrorism to justify repression

Geneva, October 21, 2014

UAE approved a new law in the fight against the terrorist crimes dated on August 2014. It was a precedent in its severity and punitive formula, its excessive indulgence in death sentences and life imprisonment. Whatever the reasons that necessitate the protection of national security and the reduction of the phenomenon of terrorism, some articles of the law deviated from this goal to become the criminalization of both peaceful dissent and abstract opinion and all human rights defenders.

It is known that signing States have devoted themselves in the way of resistance to terrorism on a central principle of ruling out the causes that lead to terrorism, namely:
1. The absence of the principle of law and institutions and human rights infringements
2. Should not contravene the laws that may be issued to combat terrorism with the obligations of States covenants and international agreements with respect for human rights.

When we are looking at the law recently issued in the UAE, we observe many imbalances that threaten public freedoms in the country.

Definition of terrorism and terrorist

Terrorism Act promulgated in August 2014 contains loose and vague definition of the concept of terrorism, which could lead to the criminalization of anyone who opposes the practices of the government in a peaceful manner alleged commission of a terrorist crime.
The article 14 of the law criminalizes "anyone who commits or refuses to act, would or is intended to threaten the stability of the state or the integrity or unity or sovereignty or security, or anti-fundamental principles underlying the system of government, or intended to overthrow the regime or grab it, or disable some of the provisions of the Constitution illegally, or prevent one of the state's institutions, or one of the public authorities from exercising their work, or harming national unity or social peace."
Therefore, this clause intimates that it includes the political opposition and dissent against the regime by peaceful means because it might be considered a kind of "threaten to the stableness of the country", "damaging national unity and social peace" and "against the fundamental rules underlying the system of governance."
It is known that private international law to fight against terrorism emphasizes that the definition of terrorist act is confined to acts that cause destruction or physical harm or families without an assault on property or touch of the regime or criticism. While the overall concept of terrorism in the UAE law may be used to condemn any political move or the demands of reforms on the pretense that the action is "threatening social peace" or "disrupting one state institutions, or one of the public authorities". It could come under this heading all of pretending on the public highway or in front of a public institution or disrupts the office of public agencies in the framework of the objection or claim of a right though not political.
The Special Rapporteur for Human Rights said that it is not permissible to invoke the state of national security justification to take measures to suppress the opposition or to justify repressive practices against its population. (Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of counter-terrorism for the year 2006).

Concept of the purpose of terrorism

The concept of purpose of terrorism seems to be loose and lacks precision what might lead to the referral of any activity of whatsoever nature to the lap of a terrorist act directed at "achieving a terrorist result" (Chapter 1 Article 1). Confirms this possibility as stated in the definition of "the effect of terrorism" in the first chapter as "inciting terror among a group of people, or loss of life or causing serious bodily injury, or cause significant harm to property or the environment, or prejudice the security of society, internal or international, or anti-state, or the impact on the public authorities in the state or another state or international organization in the performance of its work ... "and under this heading can be inserted within any dissent work as"anti-state "or" impact on public authorities ". Therefore, publications or writings that reveal system violations, excesses, demanding freedoms, and the release of detainees become forms of "terrorism".
Penal laws in the UAE included most of the crimes stipulated in this law, but this law gave the status of terrorist to every act, whatever its size and gravity. Once you add "and that was for the purpose of terrorism", it turns into a state security crime and a terrorist act.
The Article 39 of the Terrorism Act considered all the crimes specified in the Penal Code and other penal laws as terrorist offenses once you add the phrase "for the purpose of terrorism" in front of them.

Terrorist organization

The law defines a terrorist organization broadly and subject to interpretation. It may lead to classify any organization exercising its right to freedom of expression within the terrorist organizations, as the concept of terrorist act is holistic and extensive. It could include all the opponents who criticize government policy. Each group committed a terrorist crime or was involved or threatening to commit or designed or planning or trying to commit or promote or incite to commit, fall under the pretext of "terrorist organization" and is punishable by death or life imprisonment each one “established or organized or managed or took a responsibility" in this organization.
In addition, shed the same penalty on each one joined this organization or participated in its work. While the death or life imprisonment or temporary "seek to join or organize terrorist enrollment or participation in its work in any way with the knowledge of its purpose." Therefore, all suspected persons having a relationship, from near or far, with an organization classified "arbitrary" by the state as a terrorist organization, could be pursued and threatened with death, which is a maximum penalty. Each one "attempts" only to join is punished with imprisonment for life, which means that the mere thought or intent are considered crimes equivalent to doing a serious indeed. One is attempting and one running become equal in crime and punishment.
The sanctions include prison to all who supports both physically or mentally in any way, an organization or people connected to terrorism. Form of assistance includes any person who gave "a terrorist organization or person, missions, incorrect or forged documents or means of communication or any tools, information or advice or housing or shelter or place of meeting or other facilities which will help him to achieve his purpose." Punishment ranges from ten years' imprisonment and life imprisonment. Any person who provides support or advice, simple or great, to a political opponent may find himself judged under penalty of Terrorism Act.
The law also gives absolute powers to the Council of Ministers to adopt a resolution that includes the establishment of a list or lists of terrorist organizations or individuals that constitute a threat to the state. That could open the door wide for the government to poke any opposition organization in the list of terrorism without defining clear standards. The international law stressed in this regard, the need to "adopt transparent procedures and clear criteria for these lists with compelling evidence and provide practical mechanisms to study the files which are independent and well-known.
The UN strategy to combat terrorism restrict the classification of an organization on the list of terrorism that the decision shall be issued by an independent judicial body and not by government institutions, as is the case in the UAE.  the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights also stressed that the inauguration of a judicial independent body that monitors the legality of counter-terrorism measures and oversees their application without pressure or interference, is a fundamental principle in the context of the fight against terrorism so as governments didn't hide behind the slogan of confidential information to limit freedom of assembly or foundation of peaceful organizations based on confidential information which cannot be verified or challenged. Such judicial supervision ensures the responsibility and accountability of the regime in the event of any violation or exceeded.

Competent courts

According to the law, terrorism cases are denoted to the competent court of the state security crimes, which decides on sentences. It was known that these courts are specialized in suppressing opponents and intimidating judgments to deter everyone who authorizes himself to criticize the policies of the state or one of its symbols. They are exceptional courts used to prosecute each person seen by the government as a threat and to provide judicial cover for the persecution of activists.
Under the pretext of "harming national unity" and "anti-state policy", state security court have issued unfair trials, in the summer of 2013, against tens of citizens who called for political reform and the launch of freedoms in the country.
We observe also in this law, the authority continues to further keep the forces of the State Security Court and the state security apparatus. Once be added "committed for the purpose of terrorism", any criminal act turns into a matter related to the security of the State. In addition, by this law, security became a sword hanging over the neck of any citizen, even if he committed a misdemeanor. It can upgrade to the degree of a terrorist crime, threatening the security of the state.

Unprecedented sanctions

It seems clear through articles 9, 10, 11, 12 and 15 of the federal law that there is the intention of maltreatment of political opposition and human rights associations under the umbrella of the fight against terrorism as it allows the death penalty or life imprisonment for each one initiated or assaulted on the integrity of the head of state or its deputy, or a member of the Supreme Council of the Union or crown princes or royal family or their deputies or members of their families. While being punishable by temporary imprisonment those who announce publicly or declare their hostility to the state or to the system of government or lack of loyalty to the leadership. The publication of a statement opposed to the policy of the government or criticized the head of state or any kind of peaceful dissent are considered as a form of "hostility to the state and the system of government."
It also allows the life imprisonment or simply a temporary one, once someone submits to an organization or person a task or a truthful or false document or means of communication or any tools, information or advice or housing or shelter or place of meeting. In addition, shall be punished by temporary imprisonment of not more than ten years each one promoted or favored orally, in writing or in any other manner to any terrorist organization or someone or a terrorist crime. Thus, the law decides penalty of life imprisonment on the intentions and not based on the crimes committed.
The tendency of the legislature to adopt undisciplined definitions of terrorist act and the inclination to expand the scope of criminalization of human activities to non-terrorist crimes put both punitive and procedural provisions of the law, outside the framework of criminal legality rules. It increases the risk of sanctions not fitting with criminal acts. In addition, this is reflected in particular in articles 9 and 12, which penalize just an attempt to commit a crime and misdemeanors related to terrorism with the same punishment prescribed for the complete crime itself.
As the international community is moving to revoke the death penalty or at least reduce the crimes, which provide the application of the death penalty in national legislations, the Emirati legislature authorized the death penalty in 53 cases, which is a serious precedent. "So it is appropriate to call this law, the law of the death penalty."
It is notable that the death penalty will be applied in many cases even if the act did not result in the death of people. This is without distinction in punishment between acts that targeted murder or inflict greater damage to their souls, and those acts, which may result in an unintended or unplanned fall victim.
Principle of punishment depending on the seriousness of the crime was settled as a principle of international justice, and hardening the penalties prescribed in this law is adverse to this rule.
The law also criminalizes and punishes by death or life imprisonment each one who prevented a state institution from exercising its work and involved in the planning of a meeting or gathering or participated in it. However, a just peaceful protest march could be a reason of preventing state institutions from performing their work and is punishable by life imprisonment who participated and who is involved alike.
Someone needs only to disable a public facility or to threaten the state and one of the ruling family or breaks the window of a building or threaten to commit any of the acts mentioned in the protest movement, to be tried as a terrorist and his fate will be death.

The text of Security Council Resolution 1566 of 2004 determines the precise definition of terrorist operations confined exclusively to crimes that are:
1. Perpetrated against civilians in order to kill or inflict serious bodily injury
2. Taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the public or a group of persons or particular persons, or to intimidate a group of population
3. Compel a government or an international organization to do an act or not to do it
4. Constitute crimes within the scope of international conventions and protocols related to terrorism.

The resolution emphasizes that according to this definition, terrorism cannot under any circumstances be justified by any considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, and religious or any other nature of this kind.
While the reading of the Emirati Terrorism Act observes density of articles that refer to the opposition of the state explicitly or implicitly and put it in the box of serious terrorist crimes by shedding the most severe penalties. It is a blatant assault on the freedom of expression and the right of citizens to engage in any political activity, which aims to establish a pluralistic democratic system of government.

Arbitrary detention

Chapter 49 gives extensive powers to the prosecution to extend the period of investigation and suspension as it pleases with it so that not to exceed three months, but it could be extended by court order for open periods. This may remain detainees under detention for months under pending investigation which could result in torture and ill-treatment when investigating detainees for long periods without the presence of a lawyer or see the conditions of the investigation. There is also a problem in the powers of the court to practice extension without limits. It is a clear violation in the restriction of liberty for unknown periods and not stipulated in the law.
According to the International Convention on the financing of terrorism States are obliged to respect the rights of detainees and to guarantee fair treatment for them as stipulated in the international law on human rights. (Article 17)

Counseling center

The articles relating to suspected or believed to be a "dangerous terrorist" as a pursued person prevented from travel and is subject to control and his residence is prohibited in a particular place and prohibits him frequenting certain places and prevented from contact. He may also be referred to the center advice. The law does not specify the role of these centers nor powers nor the content of their programs and the suspect remains under suspension until the counseling center decides in his case and whether it is an available "dangerous terrorist" argument.
The law does not specify standards assessment of the center to evaluate the degree of its seriousness and limits the risk in adopting "extremist ideology" which opens the door to interpretations, and counseling  may include anyone who opposes the regime and calls for change and reform considering him as a "terrorist" and "anti-state" under Chapter 15, where " shall be punished by temporary imprisonment each one declared publicly  his hostility to the state or to the system of government or lack of loyalty to the leadership. " It is a clear article, which classify opposition to authority within the ranks of terrorist crimes. We also wonder what is the definition of extremism in the eyes of the legislature. In addition, how to make sure of someone’s adoption of extremist thinking and what is the standard of extremist ideology and who determines that.
The care is that Chapter 40 will be used to accuse anyone of extremism simply because of belonging to a group, which embraces a peaceful reformist track albeit it had a centrist view. As the inclusion of anti-state crimes within the terrorist crimes and use of words such as terrorist danger is playing with words and phrases to choose vague terms subject to broad interpretation.
Facing terrorist operations by contradictory laws with the Constitution and codified repressive practices is not a way to combat terrorism, and maintaining the repressive security processors  which constitute a gross violation of human rights and public freedoms, will contribute to widening the scope of the phenomena of violence and armed terrorism; therefore the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights considers this law, a dangerous precedent as it contains repressive and restrictive public freedoms articles.


The United Arab Emirates should:
1. Review the new terrorism law until it becomes consistent with international standards on human rights
2. Abandon unfair judgments contained in the text of the law, particularly the death penalty applied by the legislator overly and arbitrary and respect its commitments to the UN Human Rights Council in 2013 as promised in item 128-130 to reduce the number of crimes that impose the death penalty for the culprits, while they increased with the issuing of this jurisprudence.
3. Fight against terrorism without using terrorism as a cover to limit public freedoms and human rights violations
4. Respect the right of citizens to freedom of expression and avoid confusion between terrorism and the peaceful opposition
5. Ensure respect of detainees’ rights charged in terrorism cases to have fair trials and not to be tortured or ill-treated
6. Sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
7. Ensure the independence of the judiciary and the creation of an independent judicial body monitoring the investigative procedures and ensures that all procedures followed in the fight against terrorism are based on respect for human rights
8. Make radical political reforms that enhance the rule of law and independence of the judicial system and respect for freedoms and human rights rather than the adoption of unfair laws to restrict freedom of expression and to oppress the opponents under the pretext of combating terrorism

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