March 2017: Human Rights Violations on Rise in the UAE
March 2017 has seen a series of arbitrary arrests, unfair trials, and sentences of prominent Emirati human rights defenders. These decisions violate basic freedom of expression and human rights. The ICFUAE is particularly concerned with the latest developments to the cases of current prisoners of conscience Ahmed Mansoor, Nasser bin Ghait, Osama Al Najjar, and Tayseer Al Najjar. These cases highlight a number of human rights violations which include arbitrary arrests, the use of enforced disappearances, the use of torture and ill-treatment, unfair trials, a lack of independent monitoring, and prisoners’ lack of access to legal representatives.
- Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor is the winner of the 2015 Laureate Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders and member of the Advisory Committees of Human Rights Watch and of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. He was arbitrarily arrested on 20 March 2017 for his online activism and held in a secret location for a week. He is currently awaiting trial in Al Sadr prison, but lacks legal representation. Since 2011, he has since been the target of government hacking and spyware technologies, as well as being subjected to a travel ban and regular harassment.
- Eminent Emirati academic, economist, and human rights defender Dr. Nasser bin Ghait was sentenced to 10 years of prison for charges related to his social media posts criticising the Emirati authorities, as well as Egypt. He was arrested in August 2015 and held in incommunicado detention for 9 months, where he was not allowed to see any lawyers or to call his family. Despite suffering from high blood pressure and other medical conditions, he was denied appropriate medical care. During his hearings, he reported having been tortured, but the authorities refused his claims without investigating them further.
- Emirati blogger Osama Al Najjar is the son of prisoner of conscience Hussain Ali Al Najjar al Hammadi, who is currently serving a sentence of 11 years’ imprisonment as part of the infamous UAE 94 trial. Osama was arrested in March 2014 for denouncing the ill-treatment oh his father in jail. He was imprisoned, tortured, and denied legal access. He was condemned to 3 years in jail and was due to be released on 17 March 2017. However, he remains in illegal detention in a counselling centre in Al Razeen Prison, without legal justification nor specified duration of his extended stay.
- Jordanian journalist Tayseer Al Najjar is a culture reporter and member of the Jordan Press Association and Jordanian Writers' Union. He was arrested in December 2015 and held in secret location for 2 months. He spent more than 1 year in jail awaiting trial, without access to a lawyer. On 15 March 2017 he was sentenced to three years in jail and fined 500,000 dirhams (GBP 109,000) for posting comments on social media that were critical of Israel's war in Gaza and the UAE and Egypt's positions. The posts had been published in 2014, before he moved to the UAE.