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ICJHR celebrates World Human Rights Day

Geneva, December 9, 2016

To celebrate World Human Rights Day, which will be observed tomorrow December 10th to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly. 

Throughout the year, the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR) works relentlessly for the promotion and protection of human rights in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UDHR, as one of the most inspirational human rights documents affirming the fundamental freedoms and right of all human beings, who are all born equal and free, plays a core role in our work. Therefore, and in celebration of this date, the ICJHR welcomes the opportunity to go back on the main human rights challenges and positive steps taken in the UAE during this past year. 

In 2016 only, our organization observed several trials that failed to meet international fair trial standards for not allowing access to the defendant’s lawyer, lack of transparence in the hearings by refusing the access to the press and families or simply by not providing a right to appeal. Those cases include, amongst others, the conviction by the Federal Supreme Court of Mr. Abdulrahman Binsobeih to ten years of prison, the siblings Amina and Mosaab Alabdouli to five and seven years of imprisonment and the case of Mr. Ahmed Mohamed Al-Mulla, Mr. Badr al-Bahri, Mr. Abdullah Al Helou and Mr. Fisal Alshehhi all sentenced to three years of prison after being forcibly disappeared and held in arbitrary detention for over two years. 

In this aspect, the ICJHR wishes to applaud the recent amendment to the Emirati legislation, which now allows for appeals in the Federal Supreme Court’s judgements that were previously definitive. However, while we welcome the new legislation adopted in September as a first step towards ensuring the compliance of the Emirati legislation with international fair trial guarantees, we call for the UAE authorities to allow the law to be applied retroactively and be independent

In addition, several cases of enforced disappearance, incommunicado detention as well as torture and ill-treatment have also been reported in the UAE this year. Activists who denounce the government and violate the very restrictive freedom of association or expression legislation are often forcibly disappeared, arrested, detained in secret locations, and subjected to ill-treatment or torture. Two cases that illustrate this practice are the ones of Mr. Bin Ghaith and of the Alabdouli siblings. Mr. Bin Ghaith was forcibly disappeared in 2015 and held incommunicado until April 4, 2016 when he was brought before the Federal Supreme Court for his first hearing, where he revealed having been subjected to torture during his detention. His trial is still undergoing unlike the case of Amina, Mosab, Moza and Walid Alabdouli, who were forcibly disappeared in November 2015, held in incommunicado detention, and then tried.

Moreover, prolonged arbitrary detention has remained an issue of concern in the country as emphasized in the cases of Mr. Obaid Yousef al Zaabi, who is being held in Abu Dhabi, at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City Hospital, despite his acquittal on June 23, 2014, and Mr. Tayseer Najjar, a Jordanian journalist detained without a trial since 2015 for posting a critical Facebook post and whose health condition is deteriorating due to the poor prison conditions.

The ICJHR is also concerned with the shrinking civil society space observed through the systematic curtailing of freedom of expression in the country. As shown in our report published this year on Word Press Day highlighting the severe repression against bloggers, activists, and human rights defenders we observed that bloggers and online activists, in addition to critics of the government, were the most persecuted by the UAE authorities. In early 2016, the Federal Supreme Court convicted three bloggers, Mr. Abdullah Newab Balushi, Mr. Marwan Mohammed Atiq bin Sufyan Al Falasi and Mr. Saleh bin Mohammed bin Saleh, through the basis of the Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 on Combating Cybercrimes solely for being active online. Mr. bin Saleh was persecuted for publishing a video and a poem on Whatsapp, while Mr. Al Falasi was convicted for his use of twitter and Mr, Balushi for running a website.

Lastly, we remain highly concerned with the increase in the persecutions of human rights defender’s families in the UAE in 2016. The authorities pressure the family of activists and detainees through banning prison visits to their loved ones, revoking the citizenship of the family members and criminalizing them. We also denounced this year the case of the al-Siddiq family (Asma, Duaa and Omar al-Siddiq), whose nationalities were revoked without any legal basis or justification and which members were forced to leave the country. 

Today, as the next Universal Periodic Review planned for 2018 is approaching, the ICJHR would like to remind the UAE of its international human rights obligations and the commitments it had taken in 2013. As the human rights situation in the country is regressing, we urge the UAE authorities to consider and implement promptly the recommendations of the civil society and the international community.

Therefore, the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights calls on the UAE to:

  1. Promote and respect all the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the UAE and ratify the International Covenant on civil and political rights, the International Covenant on economic, social and cultural rights and the International Convention for the protection of all persons from enforced disappearance.
  2. Fulfil the commitments the UAE authorities made in the 2013 Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council and provide transparent information and participation to the next Universal Periodic Review to take place in 2018.
  3. Release Immediately and unconditionally all prisoners of conscience, activists and human rights defenders held in the UAE for peacefully exercising their human rights
  4. Take all the necessary measure to guarantee the safety, physical and psychological integrity of people deprived of their liberty in the UAE and ensure that they are treated with dignity and respect.
  5. Investigate promptly and in an independent manner all cases of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, perpetrators and provide redress and compensations to the victims.


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