Geneva, on August 12, 2019
The authorities of the United Arab Emirates announced the release of three activists Osama Al-Najjar, Badr Al-Bahri and Othman Al-Shehhi after they were granted a presidential pardon. The President of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, granted the three prisoners of conscience after they were forced to make public statements to announce their repentance for their past actions and disavow their commitment to the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
The three victims were arrested for their activities and tweets on social media on the basis of the Federal Law on cyber-crimes for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Osama Al-Najjar was for instance arrested after he published a tweet defending his father Hussein Al-Najjar and denouncing the serious human rights violations he was subjected to.
It appears that the authorities have adopted a new strategy to suppress dissent; force activists and prisoners of conscience to give self-incriminating testimonies, declare their allegiance to the State and retract their allegations of human rights violations for their release. Months ago, the humanitarian worker Abdul-Rahman Bin Sobeih Al-Suwaidi was released after he was also forced to make self-incriminating confessions and expressed remorse for his past conduct and activism within the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Emirati officials had previously refused to set them free after the completion of their sentences and decided instead to place them in a counselling centre, despite numerous demands from human rights organizations to release them. All three were denied the right to appeal against the decision to place them in counselling centres.
Al-Najjar, Al-Bahri and Al-Shehhi respectively completed their prison terms on March 17, 2017, April 2017, and in July 2018, to be later placed in administrative detention at Al-Razeen prison as ordered by the Public Prosecution. They were deemed to “pose a terrorist threat” pursuant to the provisions of Articles 1, 40, 48 and 66 of Federal Law No. 7 of 2014 on terrorist crimes, and the Court decided thus to place them in Munasaha centres without any motivated decision.
The International Centre for Justice and Human Rights welcomes the release Osama Al-Najjar, Badr Al-Bahri and Othman Al-Shehhi while drawing attention to the situation of other prisoners of conscience still detained beyond their release date.
The ICJHR also calls upon the UAE government to:
Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience, especially those who have ended their sentences
Put an end to the practice of administrative detention;
Conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into their rights violations and hold accountable those found responsible;
And grant the victims their right to remedy, reparation and rehabilitation.