At UN Human Rights Council Side Event, ICFUAE Calls for Immediate and Unconditional Release of All Imprisoned Human Rights Defenders in UAE
On 5th October, the International Campaign for Freedom in the United Arab Emirates (ICFUAE) participated in an online streamed side event at the 45th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, alongside Amnesty Gulf and organised by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). Titled ‘In Light Of The Second Wave Of Covid-19, Ahmed Mansoor And All Detained Human Rights Defenders In The UAE Must Be Freed’ the panel aimed to explore both the plight of imprisoned human rights defenders and the international mechanisms that can be leveraged to push for their release.
The event focused on the need to free prisoners of conscience, among other prisoners who pose no threat to society and have not committed violence, given the rising emergence of the second wave of the novel coronavirus.
Panellists offered their insights into the desperate situation facing human rights defenders in the UAE, detailing the cases of Ahmed Mansoor, Nasser bin Gaith, Mohammed al-Roken and Mohammed al-Mansoori. The pressing nature of these cases was discussed as prisoners are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19, posing an imminent threat to their already vulnerable state of wellbeing.
Alaa Al-Siddiq, an Emirati rights defender, gave an outline of the increasing clampdown on freedom of expression and human rights in the UAE since 2011. Accounts were given regarding the cases of Alia Abdulnoor, Maryam Soulayman Al-Ballushi and Amina Al-Abduli, women detained on unsubstantiated charges of ‘financing terrorism’.
Sofia Kaltenbrunner, Campaign Manager at the ICFUAE, spoke about the cases of detained human rights defenders, particularly Ahmed Mansoor. Identifying that there is ‘consensus among the international community that these [human rights] violations are happening’, focus was placed on what tools should be leveraged on an international scale to address violations. Attention was given to the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020, which were recently introduced by the UK government, and how its potential of imposing economic sanctions on perpetrators of gross human rights violations could be a key tool in pushing for the release of prisoners of conscience.
Sima Watling, a researcher for Amnesty Gulf, addressed the legal context under which many prisoners of conscience are persecuted, describing how vaguely worded cybercrime and anti-terror laws have been used to ‘criminalise freedom of speech’ in the UAE. Watling also brought attention to European developed surveillance technology used to monitor human rights advocates, such as the use of BAE Systems’ software in the monitoring of Ahmed Mansoor.
Manu Luksch, an artist, filmmaker and researcher, detailed her experience meeting Ahmed Mansoor before his imprisonment in March 2017. Sharing some of the scenes of her interview with Mansoor, she painted a picture of an intelligent, compassionate man: a ‘promoter of tolerance and equality’.