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International centre for Justice and Human Rights

Press release on the occasion of the International Day of Enforced Disappearance

Stop the enforced disappearance in the United Arab Emirates


Geneva, 30 August 2017

Today, the 30th of august 2017 marks the International Day of Enforced Disappearance , a date that was approved by the UN General Assembly in 2010 against this practice that violates humans’ rights and infringe their dignity, humanity, right to exist and freedom.

In recent years, the UAE State Security Apparatus has arrested numerous political activists, human rights defenders and bloggers for criticizing the government's policy or signing the reform petition. In fact, some of them are awarded human rights prizes such as prominent lawyer and academic Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken who was awarded the Ludovic Trarieux Prize for Human Rights in 2017 and Mr. Ahmed Mansoor, winner of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders of 2015. Indeed, the State Security Apparatus deliberately breaks into the human rights’ defenders homes without any judicial permission and takes them blindfolded (in front of their children and wives) to secret detention centers, making them forcibly disappeared and increasing the risk of their exposure to torture and ill-treatment.

This is what happened recently with the human rights defender Mr. Ahmed Mansoor, who was arrested by the State Security Apparatus on March 20, 2017 at 3am after breaking into his house in Dubai and searching all of his rooms and their contents, including the children's rooms, to take him later to an unknown location because of his online activities and his defense of human rights activists.

The UAE authorities have deliberately transferred the academic and economic expert, Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith in early August 2017, from Al-Razeen Prison to an undisclosed location and refused to inform his family about his whereabouts. Indeed, the International Center for Justice and Human Rights has issued a statement on 21 August 2017 demanding the UAE authorities to disclose Dr. Bin Ghaith’s location and making them responsible for his detention without giving him any guarantees in accordance with international standards.

In most cases, the UAE officials prohibit the detainees from informing their families about their arrest and prevent them from seeing each other and from having any immediate contact or private consultation with a lawyer and even the right to see a doctor for a medical examination in breach of the duty and obligation of the state authorities to ensure that the detention places are officially recognized and that the names of those responsible for their detention are kept in checkable records as well as the time and place of interrogations and the names of those present during it and give to doctors, lawyers as well as families full access to detainees.

There have been different confessions of former detainees, who were subjected to enforced disappearances in secret detention centers guarded by Nepalese guards who have been charged of extracting these confessions by beating, electrocuting, suspending and restricting the detainees using chains and forbidding them from sleeping and making them lay on the ground.

Kamal Al-Dharat, who is a Libyan and American national, reported that he was arrested by the State Security Apparatus in the United Arab Emirates and was kept in a secret detention center. He was prohibited from meeting his lawyer and seeing his family for months and was subjected to torture and ill-treatment such as beatings, insulting, threatening by the electric chair and sleeping on the floor.

Mohammed al-Aradi, a Libyan citizen who was officially a UAE resident for 23 years, has spent 100 days in a secret detention center measuring 3 x 3 meters and was subjected to multiple interrogation sessions in the first few weeks, blindfolded all the time and beaten with rubber hoses all over his body. He was forced to stand for several days continuously and was tied to an electric chair. The authorities later released him without any charge and without seeing any lawyer or receiving consular assistance from the Libyan embassy at any time during his detention.

The leaked letters from the UAE prisons written by the prisoners of "UAE94" have documented the various types of violations they had encountered, including enforced disappearance.

The UAE refusal to disclose the location of the secret detention centers

The UAE officials are still refusing to reveal the place of the detention centers where politicians, human rights activists and bloggers are languishing. In fact, the ICJHR has learned that the most known secret detention center is located in the main building of the State Security Apparatus, where no one can enter or access it except those working in the building and where most of the violations and torture against the detainees before their trials are carried out; it is located in Abu Dhabi in Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street and about a quarter of an hour's drive from and Abu Dhabi International Airport. The rooms are solitary and guarded by Nepali nationals, who transfer the prisoner, blindfolded and handcuffed, from his solitary cell to interrogation or torture rooms, or even to the toilet.

Several human rights reports have confirmed the violation of the detainees’ right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance including the report of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Ms. Gabriela Knoll, who has affirmed during her visit to the United Arab Emirates in 2014, that she received credible information and evidence of the exposure of many of those arrested without any warrant and transferred to unofficial places of detention, for torture or other ill-treatment, in order to extract confessions of guilt or testimony against other detainees.

Testimonials extracted under threat

In recent months, the authorities of the UAE have deliberately exploited prisoners of conscience to absolve the UAE of charges of violating human rights and degrading the dignity of detainees. This happened with the political detainee Abdul Rahman Bin Sobeih, who appeared on Abu Dhabi TV on 14 July 2017 to deny his exposure to torture, degrading treatment, unfair trial and enforced disappearance.

Indeed, the officials also did the same with Issa bin Khalifa Al Suwaidi who was arrested among the well-known case of the "UAE 94" and who appeared on Dubai TV on August 18, 2017 in order to talk about the good treatment he received in prison and to condemn another country.

Moreover, Emirati government did not provide any clarifications regarding the release of the two detainees from their prison and their appearance in the media and whether this was ordered by the Public Prosecution or by the instructions of the political authority. The ICJHR did not find any articles of the Federal Law on Regulating Penal Institutions allowing the prisoner to make confessions on TV. The ICJHR also asserts that the confessions of the two political prisoners on television present a new human rights violation and adds that they were likely exposed to pressure, threats and intimidation in order to make these fabricated testimonies on television.

The UAE's installation and management of secret prisons inside Yemen

There have been frequent reports of the UAE's involvement in the installation of secret prisons and the management of secret detention centers inside the state of Yemen that have been used as places of detention and torture in the armed conflict on Yemeni territory.

Some reports documented the existence of more than 18 secret detention centers in southern Yemen under the administration of the UAE, where enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment occur in clear violation of the human rights guaranteed by international conventions and a crime against the Geneva Convention and its Additional Protocols.

The UAE has not acceded to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

The UAE government is still hesitating to sign the Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, contrary to what it promised during the universal periodic review before the Human Rights Council in 2013.

They also did not accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2002 and are still maintaining reservations on the CAT which deprives numerous victims of their right to appeal and grieve. Besides, the authorities have declared that they do not recognize the competence of the Committee against Torture and have affirmed that they are not responsible for arbitrating between them and other States regarding the interpretation or implementation of this Convention.

In addition, the UAE has not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

UAE judiciary and impunity

The United Arab Emirates lacks a judiciary and prosecution that work in accordance with the UN relevant principles most importantly independence and impartiality which would guarantee the protection of all citizens from any aggression that would deprive them of their physical and moral sanctity and provide the victims with the right to redress and reparation.

In addition, Emirati authorities did not care about what political activists, bloggers and lawyers have said during their trials and their exposure to torture and ill-treatment; indeed, they did not initiate any investigation into these allegations. The Public Prosecution did not also conduct an inspection of the detention centers to prevent any violation of the detainees’ dignity, which proves the subordination of the judiciary and public prosecution to the State Security Apparatus and the executive authority in general. Besides, the UAE authorities are prosecuting anyone who reveals the existence of torture and enforced disappearance on the basis of the Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 on combating cybercrimes and the UAE Penal Code.

Absence of a national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles

During the Universal Periodic Review before the Human Rights Council in 2013, the UAE has pledged to set a National Human Rights Commission that works in accordance with the requirements of the Paris Principles  with full powers concerned with the protection and promotion of human rights and that would monitor all violations, track, document and visit places where human rights are likely to be transgressed  and to receive complaints relating to human rights and study them and refer them to the competent authorities and follow up the complainants and give them clarifications about the procedures that should be taken and help them in contacting the concerned parties.

However, until today, the UAE government has not fulfilled its commitments and has no national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles which preserves the dignity and humanity of the detainees and prevents torture, ill-treatment and enforced disappearance.


The International Center for Justice and Human Rights calls on the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of the judiciary and lawyers to urgently intervene with the authorities of the UAE in order to allow them to visit the detained human rights activists, bloggers and politicians and to disclose the location of the Detention centers within the UAE and within Yemen, and to refrain from violating the rights of the political activists, jurists and bloggers and grant them the right to redress, reparation and rehabilitation.

The International Center for Justice and Human Rights in Geneva also calls upon the authorities of the United Arab Emirates to:

  1. Immediately release political activists, human rights defenders and bloggers detained by the UAE in prisons and in other detention centers and to desist from violating their rights to personal safety, freedom of opinion and expression, conscience and belief and their right to peaceful assembly and to a fair trial and dignified treatment that preserves their humanity.
  1. Promptly conduct a serious investigation by an independent body into the allegations of enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment within the UAE detention centers, which deprived the detainees of their dignity and physical and psychological integrity, and to hold accountable all those involved in these violations and prevent their impunity and give the victims their full right of redress and rehabilitation.
  1. Set a National Human Rights institution that accordingly with the Paris Principles aiming at visiting the detention center independently, without prior notice, as well as monitoring and investigating the detainee’s’ rights violations and bringing those responsible to justice before an independent and impartial judiciary.
  1. Quickly ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance without making any reservation in any of its articles.
  1. Allow the UN Special Rapporteurs, the UN groups and international human rights organizations to visit the UAE detention centers in order to examine the UAE authorities respect to the relevant international standards when dealing with the detainees.
  1. Implement the recommendations of the 2013 Human Rights Periodic Review before the 2018 universal periodic review. 

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