The UAE must immediately release Osama al-Najjar
Yesterday marked two years since the expiration of Osama al-Najjar’s sentence. Yet, still, the Emirati prisoner of conscience remains detained indefinitely inside UAE’s al-Razeen prison, with little hope of release
On March 17, 2017, Osama Al-Najjar was due to be freed after serving a three-year sentence for tweeting about human rights abuses. But instead he was transferred to a so-called counselling centre within the al-Razeen prison facility after the court deemed him a ‘threat’ to national security.
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. This type of administrative detention grossly violates international standards of due process.
In recent years, a number of prisoners of conscience in the UAE have been transferred to counselling centres at the end of their sentence; a similar situation holds sway over Ahmed Mohammed Al-Mulla, Badr Al-Bahri and Abdullah Al-Helou.
The UAE authorities claim the purpose of such centres is to guide and reform those convicted of terrorist offences. However, the above cases, where none were convicted of terrorism, suggests conselling centres are being used instead to silence political dissidents.
ICFUAE urgently call for the release of Osama al-Najjar. His continued detention not only breaches international human rights legislation, but also the UAE’s own laws regarding indefinite detention.
His case is yet another example of how the UAE authorities use counter-terrorism measures as a pretext to crackdown on peaceful human rights activism. Ultimately, al-Najjar's continued detention serves no other purpose than to stifle freedom of speech and expression in the country. He must be released.