EU Parliament calls on the UAE to release leading rights activist Ahmed Mansoor
On Thursday 04/10/2018, the European Union Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the immediate release of prominent Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor, who earlier this year was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his social media activity.
Prior to his arrest in March 2017, Mansoor was the last remaining rights activist working freely in the country; though, for years, the authorities and their supporters harassed him over of his activities, subjecting him to death threats, physical assaults, constant surveillance and the confiscation of his passport.
On 29 May 2018, Abu Dhabi’s Federal Appeals Court sentenced him to 10 years in prison for using social media to “spread rumours and lies about the UAE” by “publishing false information that damages the country’s reputation.” He is currently appealing this sentence.
Labeling the trial as “grossly unfair”, Thursday’s EU resolution called for the sentence to be annulled, describing it as an “unacceptable violation on freedom of expression and freedom of association, as well as on human rights defenders in the UAE as a whole.”
More broadly, it expressed concern that, in the UAE, “attacks on members of civil society including efforts to silence, imprison, or harass human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, and others has become increasingly common in recent years.” In line with this, EU parliamentarians also called for the release of other prisoners of conscience in the UAE, including Nasser Bin Ghaith, Osama al-Najjar and Mohammed al-Roken.
Mansoor was tried on the basis of violating the UAE’s Cybercrime Law, a piece of legislation which effectively criminalises online criticism of the ruling regime. Since its institution in 2012, scores of government critics have been jailed over social media comments. Thursday’s resolution expressed concern over this, suggesting the legislation was being used to shut down freedom of speech online.
In terms of bilateral trade and diplomacy, the resolution called on EU member states to take the UAE’s human rights record into account – specifically calling for an end to the export of cyber-surveillance technology to the Gulf state.
In recent years, Germany, France and the UK have exported spyware to the UAE, which the Emirati regime have used to clamp down heavily on freedom of speech and assembly within their borders.
Spanish MEP, Miguel Crespo argued that repression in the UAE would not be possible without the equipment sold by EU member states.
MEPs called “for an EU-wide ban on the export, sale and maintenance of any form of security equipment to the UAE, including internet surveillance technology, which could be used for internal repression”, and to make the respect of human rights activists “a precondition to any further development between the EU and the UAE.”