International Day for Tolerance
Letter to Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi
Cabinet Member and Minister of State for Tolerance in the United Arab Emirates
Geneva, November 16, 2016
Your Excellency Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance,
The International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR) in Geneva has followed with great interest the recent creation of a Ministry for Tolerance in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the appointment of your Excellency, Sheikha Lubna Khalid Al Qasimi, as the Minister of State for Tolerance. Besides, the ICJHR also inquired about the primary mission of the position, which, according to the UAE Vice President, the Prime Minister and the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, will be to “promote tolerance as a fundamental value in the UAE community (…) as well as to study, teach, and practice tolerance and to instill it in our children through values, education and behavior”.
Your Excellency, the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights welcomes your declaration regarding your authority and mandate as Ministry of Tolerance, as well as your selection of the participatory approach as a work methodology, in addition to the ministry's keenness on educating and encouraging widespread tolerance, a goal which can only be achieved through a partnership with various stakeholders at the local, regional and international levels.
On the occasion of the International Day for Tolerance, which has been adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1996 and is observed each 16th of November since, the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights would like to recall the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance adopted in 1995 on an initiative by UNESCO on the twenty-eighth session of the General Assembly. The Declaration, which preamble links the four concepts of “tolerance, human rights, democracy, peace and social justice", in addition to including key concepts related to the notion of tolerance such as avoiding the scourge of war, protecting the dignity of individuals, living peacefully together in partnership, promoting intellectual solidarity and preserving freedom of thought, conscience, religion, opinion and expression, as well as cooperation between nations. Moreover, the preamble also outlined various International Covenants related to human rights standards in general and tolerance in particular.
Article 1 of the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance stipulates that:”Tolerance is, above all, an active attitude prompted by recognition of the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others”.
The ICJHR would like to share with your Excellency, whose official position is to promote tolerance and encourage its values, our concerns with regards to the escalating situation and the multitude of human rights violations taking place in the United Arab Emirates, in addition to our monitoring of many serious violations committed by the Emirati authorities against the population and especially against human rights activists, opponents, reformists and bloggers, which affected their dignity, freedom and safety, as well as to their civil, political, economic and social rights.
Your Excellency, human rights activists, bloggers, dissidents and reformists, as the most vulnerable to human rights violations in the UAE, are exposed to torture and ill-treatment in the form of electric shocks, beatings with sticks, hanging, denailing, hair plucking, immersion in cold water in front of a fan, solitary confinement in narrow cells without windows, forced stripping, sleep deprivation, and humiliations in addition to the threats such as using the electric chair.
Your Excellency, several bloggers were subjected to unfair trials in the UAE for simply tweeting, as was the case for Mr. Osama Najjar, a blogger and human rights activist who tweeted to defend his father, Mr. Hussein al-Najjar, and was sentenced in November 25, 2014, by the State Security Chambers to three years in prison and a fine of half a million dirhams.
The trials also affected those who, in 2011, exercised peacefully their right to citizenship by signing a petition to call for a reform of the parliamentary system and were later arrested, tortured and for the most part, sentenced to between 7 and 15 years in prison through an unfair trial.
As a matter of fact, the pace of violations has increased over the past five years with the widespread arrests of activists and human rights defenders, including Emirati citizens and residents. The recent cases of Mr. Tayseer Al Najjar, a Jordanian journalist, and the Alabdouli siblings’, Amina and Mo’sab, sentence on October 31, 2016, to five and seven years respectively for tweeting attest to the situation. Economic advisor and Academic Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith also faces a severe sentence for exercising his right to freedom of expression. Moreover, he attested during his trial that he had been tortured and remains currently at risk of further abuses.
Your Excellency, during the Universal Periodic Review of 2013, the United Arab Emirates pledged to respond to a set of recommendations. Three years have passed since and we are concerned with the delay of the government to:
1. Accede to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the UN Convention against Enforced Disappearance in addition to their unwillingness to withdraw the reservations made about some conventions that the UAE has ratified.
2. Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
3. Establish a National human rights institution in accordance with the principles concerning the status of national institutions, known as the Paris Principles, committed to protect and promote human rights and monitor all their violations.
The International Centre for Justice and Human Rights shares its commitment to share with your Excellency all the reports documenting the human rights violations committed in the United Arab Emirates.
Furthermore, the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights hopes that your Excellency, and the Ministry of Tolerance, will contribute to the implementation of the above-mentioned principles by putting an end to the human rights abuses, a crucial step towards achieving full tolerance. Moreover, we call upon your ministry to work on releasing every person detained solely for his or her human rights work, including activists, bloggers, dissidents as well as reformists, provide reparation and consequently hold accountable all the perpetrators of the violations. Finally, we hope that the UAE will promptly fulfill the pledges and recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review of 2013 and join the remnant UN conventions they are not yet party to.
Ms. Safwa Aissa
Director of the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights