Academic Nasser Bin Ghaith’s case transferred to Federal Appeal Court
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcomes the move by the courts in the United Arab Emirates to transfer the case of Emirati academic Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith to the Federal Appeal Court on 5 December 2016. While the human rights defender remains in prison, denied release on bail, the transfer means that he now enjoys the right to appeal his case, although he may be in court for some time as the case begins again.
On 5 December, Bin Ghaith’s case was transferred from the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court, before which all trials held are inherently unfair. Although it is a court of first instance, under UAE law, nobody tried before this court has a right of appeal before a higher tribunal. This means that, should Bin Ghaith have been convicted and sentenced in this court, he would have had no right to appeal the verdict, in contravention of international fair trial standards. No date has yet been set for a hearing at the Federal Appeal Court.
At a hearing on 7 November, Bin Ghaith’s lawyer presented a lengthy defense statement. Court was adjourned to 5 December, when it was expected that his case would be transferred to the Appeal Court, under new modifications of the Supreme Court law, which came into effect on 4 December 2016 according to a local newspaper. State security cases can now be tried under a two-level system of appeal and cassation.
On 17 October 2016, Bin Ghaith attended a hearing, where his lawyer was present but neither were allowed to talk. The prosecution read out an accusation document and demanded maximum punishment to be applied, stating that Bin Ghaith was released previously on pardon during a high-profile case in 2011 (so he shouldn't be freed again).
Bin Ghaith faces several charges stemming from his peaceful criticism on Twitter of Egyptian and Emirati authorities, which could lead to decades in prison. Authorities also accuse him of violating the country’s repressive counterterrorism law by collaborating with local groups the authorities have classified as terrorist. He was arrested on 18 August 2015. For more details, please see a report from a trial observation organised by GCHR and other NGOs at: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1397
On 4 October, GCHR, along with the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Front Line Defenders, International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), Scholars at Risk, and World Organisation Against Torture submitted information on Bin Ghaith’s case to a variety of United Nations human rights bodies and experts.
While welcoming the move to transfer the case to a two-tiered court system, granting the right to appeal at the Supreme Court, GCHR also calls on the judicial authorities to ensure that it is a free and fair judicial process, upholding international standards of fair trial. GCHR further calls on the authorities to apply the modifications of the Supreme Court law retroactively so that other cases of human rights defenders can be tried fairly.