UAE Prisoner of Conscience Mohamed al-Roken unable to accept prestigious Human Rights Award at Ceremony in Venice
The Emirati prisoner of conscience Mohamed al-Roken was unable to accept the prestigious Ludovic Trarieux Human Rights Award in person at a ceremony in Venice earlier this month due to his incarceration in the United Arab Emirates.
In his absence, a Jury composed of 27 European lawyers together with the European Bar Human Rights Institute “hailed the courage” of the leading human rights lawyer in assisting victims of human rights abuses in the UAE. Mohammed Al-Saqer, a colleague of Al-Roken's from the now-dissolved Association of Jurists, attended the ceremony and accepted the award on his behalf.
Al-Roken was awarded the prestigious Ludovic Trarieux award in May of this year for 'devoting two decades to defending fundamental freedoms'. On announcing their decision, the prize jury issued a statement which called for Al-Roken's immediate release and condemned the Emirati authorities for conducting al-Roken's trial behind closed doors.
In 2015, Mohammed al-Roken was sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government after signing a petition calling for democratic reforms in the UAE. He was among 69 people jailed following the infamous 'UAE 94' trial which was heavily criticised by groups such as the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) for contravening International legal standards.
Al-Roken is currently being held in Al-Razeen prison, a facility that predominantly holds political prisoners which in recent years has become notorious for its repressive conditions. Located in the desert 100km outside Abu Dhabi, Al-Razeen has been dubbed 'the Guantánamo of the UAE', by rights activists. Since his incarceration, there have been numerous reports suggesting that al-Rokin is being kept in solitary confinement and has endured all manner of mistreatment by authorities during his time there.
The fact that Mohammed al Roken was awarded the prestigious Ludovic Trarieux whilst behind bars in the UAE is an apt illustration of the Emirati regime's attitude towards human rights and freedom of expression within their borders. More than anything, it is crucial that this award sends a strong message of solidarity and support from the international community to all prisoners of conscience currently detained unjustly in the UAE. Along with many others, Mohammed al-Roken's continued detention serves no other purpose than to stifle freedom of expression in the UAE.
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