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Human Rights in the UAE under the Spotlight at Amnesty International Event

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Human Rights in the UAE under the Spotlight at Amnesty International Event

As we approach the fifth anniversary of the infamous 'UAE 94' trials, ICFUAE reiterated its call for the release of all political prisoners in the UAE at an Amnesty International event in Reading on Saturday.

The event, titled “Shut up: A spotlight on prisoners of conscience”, sought to highlight the plight of prisoners of conscience in the UAE.

The keynote speaker at the event was ICFUAE's press officer, Joe Odell. In his presentation, he provided an overview of the human rights situation in the Emirates.

He began by stating that: “Beneath the glitz and glamour of the UAE, lies a tightly controlled police state with one of the highest rates of political prisoners in the world”

The 'UAE 94' trials, which resulted in the imprisonment of 69 social and political activists for signing a petition calling for democratic reforms, constituted a watershed moment in terms of government repression in the Emirates, Odell said.

He explained that since the trials, the Emirati authorities have gone about shutting down all avenues of dissent in the UAE. Odell argued that the cybercrime law, instituted in 2012, along with anti-terrorism legislation, had “effectively crushed the emergent pro-democracy movement” that had begun to develop in the UAE in 2011.

In many respects, the UAE authorities' crackdown on government critics culminated last year with the arbitrary detention of the award-wining human rights activist, Ahmed Mansoor, who prior to his arrest, frequently referred to himself as the “last person speaking about human rights in the UAE.” Those at the event reiterated the calls of UN experts and rights groups by calling for Mansoor's immediate release.

The question of human rights in the UAE is a particularly pertinent question in the UK. With Brexit on the horizon, the UK government have recently announced their intention to double bilateral trade with the UAE to up to 25bn by 2020.

Odell ended his talk by calling on the British government to make sure that any future trade deals with the Emirates be conditional upon an adherence to human rights legislation.

The local Amnesty group in Reading have long been campaigning for the release of Mohammed al-Roken, an Emirati prisoner of conscience who is serving 10 years for speaking out about human rights abuses in the UAE.

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