Open Letter Calling for the Release of Maryam Al-Balushi and Amina Al-Abdouli
Your Excellency Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan,
RE: UAE must release Maryam Al-Balushi and Amina Al-Abdouli
We, the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE), are writing to respectfully call for the release of both Maryam Al-Balushi and Amina Mohammed Al-Abdouli. This request of release is owing to the fact that they are, this month, approaching the end of their original five-year sentences. This coincides with growing concerns regarding the deterioration of their physical and mental health, which follows alleged acts of torture, poor medical treatment and inhumane conditions of detainment.
Further to this, we request more information on the additional charges reportedly made against both women in January this year. We remain concerned as to the possibility that, if these women are not released now, they may be subjected to indefinite detention, as is the case for twelve other political prisoners who are currently being held in the UAE beyond their sentences.
On 19th February 2015, Maryam Al-Balushi was arrested in her home in Abu Dhabi accused of ‘financing terrorism’ after making donations to help a Syrian family. Six months later, on 19th November 2015, Amina Al-Abdouli was detained after tweeting support for the Arab Spring. This exercise of her right to free expression constituted a ‘cybercrime’ according to the Emirati government. Following these arrests, both individuals underwent secret detentions; here they were forced into self-incriminating confessions through various forms of torture, including beatings, prolonged solitary confinement and threats of rape. Held incommunicado, both women were deprived of any access to the outside world, facilitating their torture and mistreatment. Both were eventually sentenced, following grossly unfair trials, to five years in prison, terms which have now been fulfilled.
Both women served these terms at Al-Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi, where they still reside today. There they have been subject to further mistreatment at the hands of prison wardens and held in inhumane conditions. For Ms Al-Balushi this has included the installation of surveillance cameras in her bathroom, further solitary confinement and abuse from other inmates without any after-care from prison authorities. A similar story of abuse, torture and medical negligence has been true for Ms Al-Abdouli in Al-Wathba prison. Despite their fragile conditions, however, both women have shown incredible resolve when they committed to a hunger strike earlier this year, protesting against solitary confinement and the degrading treatment of prisoners. Yet, sadly, their suffering at the hands of the authorities has continued, with further ill-treatment and torture having since occurred in reprisal for their endeavours to raise public awareness about their cases, conditions of detention and the, as yet unclear, new charges brought against them this year.
In light of the aforementioned ongoing injustices, which pose a threat to the UAE’s global reputation, we urge you as Minister of Interior, a role that bears responsibility over policing and homeland security, to take the necessary steps to secure the unconditional release of Maryam Al-Balushi and Amina Al-Abdouli. It is imperative that their original release dates are respected and that updates on any further charges that have been levelled against these two women, are made public to the international community.
Pending their release, Ms Al-Balushi and Ms Al-Abdouli must be granted safe and humane prison conditions, regular family and counsellor visits, as well as adequate medical care.
We also call for an urgent and independent investigation into the reported acts of torture and, if appropriate, for the perpetrators to be held to account.
The International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE