Osama al-Najjar finally released, over two years after the completion of his sentence
Prominent UAE political prisoner Osama al-Najjar has finally been released after being held for more than two years past the completion of his sentence.
Two other detainees, Badr Al-Bahri and Othman Al-Shehi, whose initial sentences expired in April 2017 and July 2018 respectively, have also been freed.
Osama Al-Najjar was officially due for release in March 2017 after serving a three-year sentence for posting a series of Tweets critical of the authorities' human rights record. However, after the court deemed him a "threat" to national security, he was transferred instead to a so-called counseling centre within Abu Dhabi’s al-Razeen prison.
As there is no trial proceeding this form of detention, those transferred to such facilities can be held indefinitely with the government - rather than the judiciary - handing down punishment. Nine other detainees continue to be held at al-Razeen despite completing their sentences.
The UAE’s record of indefinite detention has come under increased scrutiny recently, with Human Rights Watch accusing the regime of flouting its obligations under international law.
It remains to be seen whether the UAE authorities will release the other prisoners of conscience being held indefinitely at al-Razeen jail.
We welcome the UAE’s decision to free these prisoners, whose release was long overdue.
However, we maintain that they should never have been held for so long, nor even imprisoned in the first instance.
We now urge the Emirati authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the nine others detainees held indefinitely at al-Razeen jail. By continuing to hold them, the UAE are not only violating international legislation but their laws regarding indefinite detention.
In light of these cases and others, we call for an independent judiciary in the UAE, which is immune to interference from the government.