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International Centre for Justice and Human Rights

Press Release on International Women's Day

Violation of women's rights by the authorities of the United Arab Emirates

Geneva, March 8, 2017

The authorities of the United Arab Emirates, through their legislations and discourses, are taking an effort to promote respect for women's rights and empowerment and guarantee all of these rights based on equality between men and women. Indeed, they are boasting about the inclusion of these rights in the Emirati constitution and laws as well as about establishing institutions for the protection of women’s rights.

However, women in the UAE are still suffering from many violations of their political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights, since the authorities failed to withdraw key reservations to a number of articles under “CEDAW” (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) most importantly Article 2 paragraph (f), Article 9, Article 15 paragraph (2), Article 16, and Article 29 paragraph (1).

Besides, Emirati delegation did not commit to their pledge made before the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women on the withdrawal of those reservations considered by the Committee as an obstacle to effective implementation of CEDAW. Their failure to such commitment is incompatible with the objectives and purposes of the Convention, particularly, having taken and maintained reservations to Article 2 and Article 16.

Further, the UAE authorities did not ratify many international instruments which would ensure women's rights, including International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR) has monitored several cases of violations that undermined the freedom of women who are defending human rights and threatened their personal security, right to freedom of expression and opinion, right to civil and political participation in the society, right to have a dignified life, right to work, travel, study as well as nationality, and right to fair trial as the UAE authorities continue to harass the families particularly the wives and children of political prisoners and human rights activists.

The Emirati authorities have released Moza al-Abdouly after she was forcibly disappeared on November 19, 2015, detained in a secret place on account of tweet posts, and also prevented from family and lawyer visits during her detention. She was only freed on May 30, 2016 following her acquittal by the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court.

Her sister, Amina al-Abdouly, was prevented from having fair trial guarantees and on October 31, 2016, she was sentenced to a five-year of imprisonment and a 500,000 dirham fine (US$ 136,000) in addition to a confiscation of her electronic devices by the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court whose verdicts are final and no appeal was allowed. The judgment was based on the Federal Law No. 7 of 2014 on Combating Terrorism Offences.

The Emirati authorities have also revoked the citizenship of siblings Asma and Duaa al-Siddiq, daughters of Mr. Mohammed Abdel-Razzaq al-Siddiq who is a prisoner of conscience detained within the known case of the “UAE94”. The two girls were stripped out of all their official documents in March 2016 including their ID card, passport, driving license, health insurance and credit cards. They were also prevented from seeing the official decree which authorizes their nationality revocation and from their right to administrative and judicial appeal against the arbitrary deprivation of nationality.

This same violation was repeated in April 2016 in the case of Mr. Obaid Ali Al Kaabi’s wife, who was deprived of her nationality following her husband nationality revocation without due process.

Wives, mothers, daughters and sisters of detainees, politicians, lawyers and bloggers are repeatedly subjected to harassments, humiliations and ill-treatment during their visit to their detained relatives. For instance, upon arrival they were often prohibited from visiting their relatives without prior notice despite having undergone the compulsory and humiliating body search and traveled from afar in addition to the fact that the authorities used the false pretext of the broken phones on December 2016 to prevent them from seeing their imprisoned relatives.

The detainees’ wives also suffer from administrative discrimination and harassments as such procedures are often made difficult by the authorities as a mean of reprisals against their jailed husbands. For example, we have been informed that the authorities deny the access to the administrative documents of the children in the absence of their father as they require his presence or identity card in order to proceed, thus resulting in preventing the wife from taking her children’s administrative procedures in the absence of her husband.

With regards to the economic and social rights of women, it is important to recall the lack of safeguards to protect domestic workers’ rights. Indeed, the law expressly excludes domestic workers from any form of protection. Therefore, they are not protected by the hour limit on the maximum working hours and do not benefit from any compensation for sick leave as justified by the Minister of Labor Saqr Ighbash within the specificity of domestic employment.

Indeed, the UAE authorities did not take responsibility in protecting the rights of the domestic workers and failed to investigate any unfair and unlawful conduct practiced by their employers against them. Moreover, the authorities refused the domestic workers’ right to redress.

Another practice undertaken by the employers is to confiscate the passport of their female workers in order to prevent them from leaving in spite of its illegality under the law of the UAE.

Moreover, the UAE government does not authorize any civil society organization to either monitor the workers’ rights violations or provide advice to the victims.

The CEDAW Committee has also expressed its concern, in its 62nd session held in Geneva from October 26 to November 20, 2015, about the exclusion of equality between women and men in public and private spheres and the elimination of discrimination against women in the Emirati Constitution and laws. The Committee has also examined the obstacles that hinder women's access to justice and legal remedies and the prohibition of civil society organizations defending women's rights in the UAE in which they found an explanation for the absence of parallel reports on the status of women within the UAE.

Therefore, given the human rights violations committed against women in the UAE, International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR) calls upon Emirati government to:

  1. Refrain from violating the civil, political, economic and social rights of women in the United Arab Emirates and from undermining their personal freedom and security.
  2. Immediately release all female prisoners who are detained because of their political background and human rights activism as well as to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation about their sufferings from torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention and to hold accountable all those involved in these violations and enable the victims of their full right to redress and rehabilitation.
  3. Withdraw all reservations to Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and ratify other international covenants that would guarantee women's rights, including International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.
  4. Review the decrees under which many Emirati women were stripped out of their nationality and enable them of their full right to redress and rehabilitation.
  5. Execute the commitments made by the Emirati delegation before the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in November 2015 in order to effectively implement the Convention and its aims and objectives.
  6. Promptly fulfill the pledges made by the United Arab Emirates following the Universal Periodic Review before the Human Rights Council in 2013.

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