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International Centre for Justice and Human Rights

Call for a ratification of the OPCAT by the United Arab Emirates on its 10th anniversary

Geneva, November 17, 2016

Today, the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment (OPCAT) celebrates the tenth anniversary of its entry into force. The OPCAT is a torture prevention mechanism that facilitates the cooperation between the National Prevention Mechanisms, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) and the States to address the root causes of torture in order to prevent it from reoccurring. Since 2006, 81 States have ratified it and another 17 are signatories. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is however not one of them yet. In this context, the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR) would like to call today on the UAE to ratify the Protocol without any delay. 

In 2012, the UAE ratified the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment but they made reservation concerning the definition of torture and on: 

  1. The competence of the Committee against Torture referred to in article 20 of the Convention.
  2. Arbitration, as regulated in paragraph 1, article 30 of the Convention.

While we see this adhesion as a positive step forward towards the UAE fully aligning its national legislation and practice with international standards in matters of torture and ill-treatment, we condemn the time it has taken to ratify the Convention, which was adopted in 1984, and the refusal of the UAE to ratify both documents, the UNCAT and the OPCAT, simultaneously.  In addition, the UAE has failed to uphold the engagement taken in 2013, during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and following several States Parties’ recommendations, when the UAE informed the UPR Working Group that they would be considering the ratification of the OPCAT in the near future.

It is relevant to note that torture and ill-treatment are, despite the absolute prohibition and non derogable status, still used by the Emirati State Security Apparatus against detainees, activists and human rights defenders as a common method of repression. Citizen that criticize the government or go against the very restrictive legislation in matters of freedom of association or expression are frequently arrested, detained in secret locations and subjected to ill-treatment or torture. Moreover, detainees are frequently pressured into confessions that will be held against them, in complete violation of the UN the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment (UNCAT) and other international standards that exclude any evidence obtained through torture.

We furthermore recall the recent case of Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith, who claimed to have been tortured during his incommunicado detention in a secret location, in addition to the case of Mr. Mohamed Al Aradi and Mr. Salim Al aradi, two Libyan businessmen detained and tortured in 2015. 

Therefore, the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights calls upon the UAE to delay no more the ratification of the OPCAT and implement the following recommendations: 

  1. Fully implement all the UNCAT provisions without any reservations.
  2. Review the UAE legislations to ensure they are compatible with the UNCAT.
  3. Recognize the competence of the Committee against torture to inquire about any allegations of torture.
  4. Conduct independent, fair and prompt investigations into the allegations of torture brought to the UAE’s attention to this day and hold accountable the perpetrators.
  5. Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR).
  6. Review the Emirati laws, including the Anti-Terrorism Law and the Cybercrimes Law, in order to make them compatible with international human right standards and implement them in a transparent and effective manner. 
  7. 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.

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