Leading lawyers call for UAE officials to be prosecuted over death of Alia Abdelnoor
A group of leading lawyers and human rights experts have called for the arrest and prosecution of UAE officials responsible for the death of UAE aid worker Alia Abdelnoor.
On 4 May, Abdelnoor, 42, died in UAE’s Tawam hospital after losing her battle to breast cancer, which resurfaced shortly after her arrest in 2015. Up until her death, she did not receive adequate medical care to treat her illness and was reportedly forced to sign a document stating that she had refused chemotherapy.
In a case described by Human Rights Watch as ‘marred by due process violations’, Abdelnoor was serving a 10-year prison term on charges of financing terrorism. Family members said that her conviction related to small donations she made to Syrian families affected by the country’s civil war.
At a press conference in London yesterday evening, lawyers and activists called for an urgent investigation into Alia’s case and for those responsible for her death to be prosecuted.
“Given the gravity of Alia Abdulnoor’s case, the UN should deploy its full armoury of investigative procedures to hold the responsible UAE authorities to account.” Juliet Wells, a Barrister at Temple Garden Chambers, said
Panelists also urged governments across Europe to take a firmer stance on the UAE’s increasingly poor human rights record.
Italian senator, Marco Perduca, said: “While the role of civil society organizations is to denounce violations of human rights, it is up to governments that have ratified all major international human rights instruments to respect their obligations and enter agreements with countries that, among other things, respect due process and fair trial.
European countries should unite in denouncing what has happened against a person convicted with no evidence.”
Barrister David Young of Red Lion Chambers, added:
“UN Expert Rapporteurs and European Parliamentarians have clearly been satisfied that there is credible evidence that serious human rights violations occurred in the tragic case of Alia Abdulnoor.
In the absence of any independent criminal investigation or prosecutions in the UAE… it is incumbent upon responsible States to consider their exercise of universal jurisdiction in their national courts against the appropriate UAE officials as circumstances permit.”
Calling for a boycott of Dubai Expo 2020, ICFUAE’s Joe Odell said that more needed to be done to challenge the UAE’s soft-power project in the West.
“A consistent pattern of flagrant human rights violations belies the UAE’s reputation as a kind of beacon of liberalism and openness in an otherwise fraught and closed region.
Next year, the UAE will hope to irreversibly cement that image by hosting Dubai Expo 2020. It imperative companies and countries refuse to promote or take part in this event.
The Emirati regime cannot be allowed to continue violating international law with such impunity.”
In the months leading up to her passing, the UAE ignored calls from the UN, MEPs and Amnesty International to grant Alia early release on medical grounds.
The UN OHCHR is now demanding an urgent investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death. The UAE, however, are yet to respond to this request.