Open Letter to UAE Minister of Interior regarding Maryam Al-Balushi and Amina Al-Abdouli
23 September 2020
Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Minister of Interior and Deputy Prime Minister
1st Street, W 56
United Arab Emirates
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 our growing concerns regarding the deterioration of their physical and mental health, which follows the alleged acts of torture, poor medical treatment and inhumane conditions of detainment.
On 19th February 2015, Maryam Al-Balushi was arrested in her home in Abu Dhabi on charges of ‘financing terrorism’ after making donations to help a Syrian family. Six months later, on 19th November 2015, Amina Al-Abdouli was arrested on allegations of cybercrimes. Following these arrests, both individuals underwent secret detentions; here they were forced into self-incriminating confessions through torture including beatings, prolonged solitary confinement and threats of rape. During their pre-trial detentions, the women were held incommunicado without any access to the outside world, which facilitates torture and mistreatment.
After both women appeared before the State Security Prosecution and were formally charged, they were transferred to Al-Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi, where they have been subject to further mistreatment at the hands of prison warders and subject to inhuman conditions. For Ms Al-Balushi this has included shameful conditions such as surveillance cameras in her bathroom, as well as further solitary confinement and abuse from other inmates without any after-care from prison authorities. A similar story of abuse, torture and medical negligence followed for Ms Al-Abdouli in Al-Wathba prison.
The severity of their suffering has been consistent since the initial allegations were made, including ill-treatment and torture in reprisal for refusing to conform to self-incriminating confessions in relation to new charges brought against them this year for their endeavours of raising public awareness about their cases. Despite their already fragile conditions, they engaged in hunger strikes earlier this year to protest against solitary confinement and degrading treatment. Ms Al-Balushi’s subsequent suicide attempt highlights the degree of urgency this situation requires.
Whilst the attempt to take her own life appears to have brought about an end to her punishment of solitary confinement, the authority’s systematic medical negligence continues to be alarming, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Considering the death in custody due to medical negligence of another Al-Wathba inmate, Alia Abdulnour, we urge for an immediate improvement of both women’s medical safeguarding.
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. We also call for an urgent and independent investigation into the acts of torture and for the perpetrators to be held to account. In the interim, 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.
The International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE