ICFUAE Newsletter #4
The latest news on UAE campaigns
The International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE supports political activism and democratic reform in the UAE. We’ll be following all developments in the UAE and be bringing you the latest updates in our newsletter.
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New anti-hate law in the UAE silences critics
The UAE passed a new law aimed at combating discrimination that has drawn a number of concerns about its use and consequences. The new law will ban any form of discrimination in the United Arab Emirates based on “ religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin”. Anyone found to be guilty of discrimination could face fines or prison sentences of up to 10 years.
Whilst it is seen by some as a progressive step in the UAE, many human rights organisations have warned that the new law could be used to further silence and prevent free speech. With an increasingly repressive environment in the UAE, the new laws that have recently been implement have been so vague in nature that the authorities have used the laws to prosecute individuals based on their thoughts and opinions.
This new law has now been used by the former head of Dubai police to launch legal proceedings against a Saudi writer. The Emirati former public official has used this new law, claiming that the Saudi writer has been using Twitter to criticise the UAE and using hate speech against the country.
The Saudi writer, Mohammed Al Hadif, has been critical of the UAE’s actions in Yemen and was previously banned by the Suadi authorities from using Twitter for his support of the Muslim Brotherhood and calling for Mohammed Morsi, former president of Egypt, to be reinstated.
As the crackdown in the UAE continues, this new law suggests that the climate is worsening and any form of dissent could face even harsher repercussions.
Further reports of torture in UAE prisons
In the run up to the festival of Eid Al Fitr, four Libyan businessmen who were detained by the UAE authorities in 2014 for more than 120 days have released a statement detailing the torture and brutal treatment they suffered at the hands of the Emirati authorities.
In the statement they said:
Despite the brutal torture and oppression, the enforced disappearance in secret prisons in the UAE, and despite the consequence of health and psychological problems and considerable material losses; we remain without any resentment towards the UAE Constitution and the laws of the State, we remain silent, and we continue to appeal for the calm and diplomatic resolution of this problem and for the release of the remaining Libyan nationals who are still languishing in prison.
The Libyan businessmen were released in December 2014, but a number of individuals remain in detention in the UAE. As stated in the statement there have been no reported reasons behind the arrest or detention.
With continued concern about the use of torture and conditions of prisons in the UAE, this statement has reflected these growing concerns that torture is still very much in use and that prisoners are likely to be suffering as a result of the conditions of their detention.
British Government responds to Parliamentarian concerns about the UAE
The British Government have said that whilst the UAE is not a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights it is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council and the UK does use its bilateral relationship with the UAE to raise concerns.
The government’s answers were in response to questions from members of the House of Lords on a range of issues; travel bans, political prisons and human rights. In response to Baroness Kinnocks concerns about treatment of political prisoners in the UAE, they said:
“We are aware of the allegations made by Amnesty International. The British Government’s policy is clear – we do not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or mistreatment for any purpose. Our bilateral relationship with the United Arab Emirates allows us to discuss a broad range of issues, including human rights. Where we have concerns we make these clear to Emirati authorities.”
With increasing concerns about the political situation in the UAE it is likely that such further concerns will be brought to the British government’s attention and it is hoped that the bilateral relationship will be a useful tool of discussion for these issues.
Think before you Tweet in the UAE
A running theme of life in the UAE is to be careful what you say and what you think. This truism has led to the arrest and eventual deportation of an Australian artist this month, who caught the attention of the authorities after she used “bad words” on social media.
After Emirati authorities received complaints about her post, they arrested her and she washeld by authorities under the Cyber Crime Law.
The Australian artist, Jodi Magi, posted a picture of a car parked across two disabled bays. This latest case comes in the wake of a continued crackdown on freedom of expression in the UAE. In this case the Australian artists has fallen foul of laws which the authorities put in place in order to control dissent in the Gulf State.
Whilst the story itself seemed somewhat farcical, it did help to shed light on the increasing repression seeping across all sectors of life in the UAE. The number of activists arrested and detained as result of their use of social media was highlighted less than a month ago at the United Nations Human Rights Council. At the 29th session of the HRC the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, referred to the case of Osama al Najjar. Osama al Najjar was a prominent blogger in the UAE, who used social media to draw attention to the unfair political trials of the UAE 94. His use of social media, in particular Twitter, led to his detention. In al Najjar’s case the situation took a more drastic turn, and like many other political prisoners in the UAE, he has suffered torture and ill-treatment during his disappearance.
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