UN demands release of Jordanian pair unjustly detained in UAE
UN experts have said the UAE may be guilty of ‘crimes against humanity’ for jailing two Jordanian nationals based on evidence arrived at under torture.
In October 2015, Emirati security forces raided the homes of Bahaa Mattar and Maher Abu Shawareb and took them to an unknown location. The pair of IT professionals went on to be held for over a year without charge before being sentenced to 10 years in prison in December 2017.
In a damning judgment of the case, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said the UAE were in breach of international law and called for the detainees' immediate release – citing a lack of due process, the use of torture and an unfair trial.
According to the ruling neither Mattar or Shawareb were shown a warrant, nor given any reason for their arrest.
The UN’s document details how the pair were held in secret detention for over three months, where they were coerced into signing a false confession under duress.
In his testimony to the UN, Mattar said that UAE interrogators forcibly stripped him, beat him all over his body and threatened to harm his family. Abu Shawareb was reportedly struck until he fell unconscious and threatened with rape; he has since had three separate operations to treat the consequent injuries.
It was confessions obtained during this period that Abu Dhabi’s Federal Court of Appeal relied upon for evidence, despite the defendants rejecting them during the trial. No separate investigation has been carried out into the victim’s torture claims.
On December 26, 2017 Mattar and Shewarb were sentenced to 10 years in prison and fine of 1m dirhams (£213,000), on terrorism charges. According to Al-Karama, a Geneva-based legal advocacy NGO, Emirati authorities refused to disclose the exact nature of the pair’s charges - despite requests from the Jordanian embassy to do so.
The UAE authorities also subjected the two detainees' families to acts of intimidation and harassment in retaliation to their repeated attempts to obtain information about the fate and whereabouts of their relatives.
In November 2015, the authorities expelled Mattar’s family from the UAE, ordering them to leave the territory on short notice. In September 2016, when Mattar’s uncle visited him, he too was threatened and ordered never to come back.
Similarly, in retaliation to inquiries made about Abu Shawareb’s fate and whereabouts, his brother was interrogated by state security forces for several hours, threatened and coerced into signing a statement.
In their ruling, UN experts reminded the UAE authorities, that this Opinion was “only one of several Opinions in which the Working Group has found the government of the [UAE] in violation of its international human rights obligations”, recalling that “under certain circumstances, widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of the rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity”.
Despite requests for their release, Bahaa Mattar and Abu Shawareb remain in prison.