Emirati Prisoner of Conscience finally released after three years in arbitrary detention
Obaid Yousef al-Zaabi has finally been released by Emirati authorities after spending more than three years in a state of arbitrary detention in the UAE, according to Amnesty International.
Al-Zaabi was initially arrested in December 2013 after criticising the lack of free speech in the UAE in an interview with CNN. In the interview, he stated: “I will continue to forever defend human rights and dignity of our people, our freedoms and our political rights.[..].I’ll do this in order to guarantee a better future for our people and the coming generations so that they can be in a situation in which these freedoms are set in stone.”
The day following the interview, Al-Zaabi disappeared and was eventually charged with “offending the supreme court”, “offending the state security apparatus” and “instigating people against the rulers and the security of the state”.
In June of 2014, however, the Federal Supreme Court acquitted Al-Zaabi of all charges. Yet despite this, Emirati security forces continued to detain without any explanation or legal basis.
Commenting on the case at the time, UAE expert, Christopher Davidson, suggested that Al-Zaabi's arbitrary detention demonstrated that UAE state security apparatuses function outside of the country's formal legal structures, “operating in a parallel legal (or illegal) universe”
Al-Zaabi's case is far from isolated. Between 2013-2017, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) declared 100 arrests arbitrary in the UAE.
Since the Arab Spring of 2011, the Emirati authorities have cracked down heavily on dissenting voices inside the country. In 2013, 69 social and political activists were imprisoned after submitting a petition to the ruling authorities calling for democratic reforms in a trial that was heavily condemned by organisations such as Amnesty international and the International Commission of Jurists for contravening international legal standards.
Whilst we welcome the long overdue release of Obaid Yousef al-Zaabi, we urgently call upon the Emirati authorities to institute a legal system that is in line with internationally recognised legal standards. In relation to this, it is imperative that the UAE authorities immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience currently detained in the country.