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94 UAE 06

Third anniversary of the WGAD opinion on the UAE 94 case

Geneva, November 22, 2016

We are celebrating today the third anniversary of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) opinion on the UAE 94 case, a high-profile mass trial at the center of the UAE general crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly and more especially on activists advocating for reform in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In one single trial, the Emirati authorities judged 94 citizens, sentencing over 60 of them to between seven and ten years of imprisonment. Amongst the 61 convicted, seven, known as the UAE 7, were tried in absentia after being revoked of their nationality in 2011.

In this wide repression against civil society, the Emirati authorities made of the affair a fearful example to prevent against the uprising of any political opposition and removed from the public space human rights advocacy leaders and eminent Emirati critics. The WGAD, in its opinion No.60/2013, emphasized the impossibility of a fair trial in the UAE94 case given the circumstances of the arrests, the scale of the trial, in addition to the bases of the charges held against the dissidents, which were solely based on the exercise of their right to a political opinion Moreover, the working group declared that the UAE had a duty to release the 61 indicted reformists, an obligation that the Emirati authorities have ignored.

Many Emirati prominent personalities in the fight for human rights such as Dr. Al Roken, an eminent human rights lawyer and academic, Dr. Mohammed Al Mansoori, a high-profile lawyer, judge Mohammed Saeed Al-Abdouli, Sheikh Dr Sultan Kayed Mohammed Al-Qassimi, a senior member of the Ras Al-Khaimah ruling family, Mr. Khalid AlShaiba Al-Nuaimi,, Mr. Hussain Ali Al-Najjar Al-Hammadi, a teacher, and Mr. Saleh Mohammed Al-Dhufairi. blogger and former teacher, were convicted in this famous case.

The conclusions of the opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on the UAE 94, issued on November 22, 2013, show that the Emirati authorities have violated the right to a fair trial of the defendants, a right set in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). According to the findings of the working group, the arrest and prolonged detention of the 61 defendants was solely based on the peaceful exercise of their human rights, including their right to freedom of opinion, of expression as well as of peaceful assembly and association, which are all enshrined in the UDHR. Their arrest and detention was therefore considered arbitrary by the WGAD, which led the Working group to call upon the UAE to release the detainees and provide them with reparation.

Three years on, the International Center for Justice and Human Rights remains very concerned about the widespread repression and persecutions against human rights activists. The criminalization of Emirati activists has since 2011 increased considerably in parallel with the use of enforced disappearances, torture, secret detention locations, arbitrary detention and unfair trials, which are now rampant in the UAE. Indeed, even though the UAE ratified, in July 2012, the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) with a few reservations, the UNCAT has not been implemented accordingly and allegations of torture and ill-treatment against detainees, including against the UAE 94, have been recorded but were not investigated into.

The right to freedom of expression remains widely suppressed in the medias and newspapers but also on social media platforms Last year, the creation and participation to associations was further curtailed by the adoption of a new legislative framework on anti-discrimination and anti-hate (Federal Law No.2 of 2015), which entails provisions that empower the courts to dissolve associations and criminalize their creators. To further criminalize reformists and online/offline activists, the Emirati authorities have been calling on the Federal Law No. of 2012 on Combating Cybercrimes and the Federal Law No.7 of 2014 on Combating Terrorism. In fact, the 2014 counterterrorism legislation has taken the repressive policy of the UAE one step further by introducing death penalty for threats to the state unity or the social peace of the country.

Furthermore, the State Security apparatus strengthen the repression against human rights defenders and reformist through the adoption of a policy of harassment and reprisals against the families of the UAE 94. Several cases attest of this practice such as the detention of Mr. Obaid Yousef Al-Zaabi, brother of one of the UAE 94 detainees, Dr Ahmed Al-Zaabi.

The International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR) calls on the international community to hold the UAE accountable to its international commitments by immediately and unconditionally releasing the detainees held as part of the UAE 94 case and investigating the allegations of torture against them.

The International Centre for Justice and Human Rights strongly condemns the UAE’s actions in this case and urgently calls upon the UAE to fully implement the following recommendations to:

  1. Release unconditionally and without any delay all the Emirati activists detained in the framework of the UAE 94 case, as well all the human rights defenders and activists detained solely for their peaceful exercise of freedom of expression and association in the UAE.
  2. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the 61 activists deprived of their liberty in the UAE 94 case, as well as all other detainees in the UAE, and grant them family visits and access to legal counsel. 
  3. Investigate in a prompt and transparent manner the allegations of torture and ill-treatment of the UAE94 detainees through an independent body, in addition to ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable and the victims are provided with full redress and compensation. 
  4.      Revise the national legal framework in order to comply with international human rights standards and ensure to uphold those standards through their transparent and efficient implementation and monitoring.

  5. Uphold the commitments made during the 2013 Universal Periodic Review and ratify all the pending treaties, without any reservations.



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