Remembering the UAE 94: Mohamed Al-Roken, Emirati human rights lawyer
This month, Dr Mohamed Al-Roken enters the seventh year of his sentence in Abu Dhabi’s notoriously repressive Al-Razeen prison. A prisoner of conscience, he continues to be persecuted by the UAE authorities for exercising his basic human rights to freedom of expression and association.
Dr Al-Roken is a pre-eminent Emirati human rights lawyer, who dedicated his life to defending those facing human rights law violations in the UAE. An award-winning academic and former professor of constitutional law, he notably represented the group of human rights activists (“the UAE 5”), including Ahmed Mansoor, who were convicted and later amnestied for running a website criticising the UAE government.
For speaking out and protecting the fundamental freedoms of others, Dr Al-Roken paid a hefty price. On 2nd July 2013, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi as part of the mass trial of proponents of democratic reform.
This case, which became known as “the UAE 94”, led to the imprisonment of a number of lawyers, judges, academics and students for 7-15 years. Gross violations of fair trial conditions were committed by the UAE authorities in a systematic and deliberate manner. The defendants were held in solitary confinement before the hearing with no access to the outside world or lawyers. Allegations of torture and other ill-treatment to obtain evidence and forged signatures on “confession” papers were widespread. The International Commission of Jurists conclusively found that the proceedings had fallen “well below international fair trial standards”.
Dr Al-Roken's detention, trial and sentence are riddled with flagrant breaches of international human rights norms. After his initial arrest on 17th July 2012, he was held in solitary confinement at a secret location. He was denied access to a lawyer and had no right to appeal the verdict. On 11th November 2015, Dr Al-Roken was subjected to “music torture” at Al-Razeen. The security guards purposefully blasted propaganda music in his cell at piercing volumes, leading to him losing consciousness due to high blood pressure and exacerbating his ear infection.
So long as Mohamed Al-Roken sits in prison, a grave injustice continues to stand. We call for his immediate and unconditional release. It is also imperative that prison conditions in the UAE are urgently improved. Dr Al-Roken was one of the last human rights lawyers working in open practice in the UAE. Much like the other UAE 94 political prisoners, he deserves treatment in line with international standards.