Geneva, on July 2, 2019
Today marks the sixth anniversary of the mass trial of the UAE 94, a group of political opponents from different backgrounds, including judges, lawyers, academics, journalists and human rights defenders. On July 2nd, 2013, all of them were sentenced by the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court, to jail terms and have been kept in prison since.
The government launched a crackdown on the opposition after they signed a reform petition on March 3, 2011, demanding free and transparent elections of all members of the Federal National Council and its empowerment with full legislative authority.
The authorities carried out mass arrests against 94 individuals in this trial and charged them with “plotting to overthrow the government and threatening the State’s security”. They were held in secret detention centres and tortured for months without being taken to judicial authority or granted access to a lawyer, or even allowed to inform their families about their whereabouts.
Months after their arrest, they reappeared in court and were charged for the first time. Despite the systematic allegations of torture, the judges refused to open investigations and overrule the confessions extracted under torture. After a grossly unfair trial, the 94 defendants were sentenced to prison terms between 7 and 15 years in prison.
Six years later, the victims are still suffering ill-treatment and systematic abuses in prison. Multiple testimonies reported arbitrary restrictions or derivation of family visits. Some of them were deprived of all contact with their families for months.
The detainees’ families are also subjected serious violations and systematic pressure from the authorities. They are all suffering serious restrictions to their civil, social and economic rights. They are denied the renewal of identity documents, prevented from travelling and suffer restricted access education and work.
A number of inmates among the UAE 94 were also arbitrarily stripped of their nationality. The arbitrary revocation of nationality also included their wives and children. In March 2016, Asma, Omar and Du’aa Siddiq, the children of the political prisoner Mr Mohammed Siddiq, were stripped of their Emirati citizenship and given no legal remedy against this decision.
The ICJHR has also learned with concern that the authorities suspended the payment of retirement pensions to retired inmates. This decision does not only affect the detainees themselves but has also a direct impact on their families to whom they were the main or only breadwinners.
Consistent testimonies also pointed to constant pressure and threats on relatives of political prisoners, which established a climate of fear. On March 17, 2014, Osama Al-Najjar was arrested after he reported the violations perpetrated against his father Hussein Al-Najjar, a detainee among the UAE 94. Osama Al-Najjar was sentenced to three years in jail and has been kept in detention after he served his three-year prison term. Seven others are also held past their prison term and are kept in counselling centres because authorities considered them to pose a terrorist threat. Many others will complete their sentence in the next months and the ICJHR fears that they face the same fate.
The ICJHR was therefore obliged to send communication dated June 18, 2019, to the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism, on the detention of activists in counselling centres and to consider it as a form of arbitrary detention.
While the authorities are refusing refuse to release activists, bloggers and human rights defenders, even after they served their time, they released Abdul Rahman Bin Sobeih, who was released on Thursday, May 16, 2019, after he appeared on official television and allegedly wrote a book to deny his exposure to human rights abuses and claims that Al-Islah party and other opponents cooperating with foreign countries to spread chaos and destroy the image of the UAE.
In light of the above, the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights calls upon human rights entities, UN Bodies, international organisations, and all States, to urge the UAE authorities to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release all detainees in the UAE 94 case and all other prisoners of conscience and all detainees sentenced after an unfair trial.
- Open a prompt and independent investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment, bring those responsible to justice and grant the victims proper redress.
- Put an end to the collective sanctions against the prisoners’ families and ensure their right to travel, work, study and to dispose of their money and property, etc.
- Allow human rights organisations and UN Special Procedures to visit Emirati prisons, interview the inmates, monitor and document the human rights situation.