7 years on from the “UAE 94” trial, authorities must release peaceful activists convicted at grossly unfair mass trial
Seven years ago today, the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court issued its final decision in the case against 94 political activists, marking the end of a grossly unfair mass trial infamously known as the “UAE 94”.
In 2013, 94 individuals, including lawyers, judges, academics and student leaders were accused of founding, organising and administering an organisation aimed at overthrowing the Emirati government. These charges relate solely to the defendants’ peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of speech by signing a petition launched in 2011, which called for democratic elections, an independent judiciary and legislative powers to be granted to the Federal National Council. Of the 94 tried, 56 were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, 5 to 7 years and 8 others, tried in absentia, to 15 years; 25 were acquitted.
The trial has been widely criticised for breaching internationally agreed fair trial standards; the tribunal was not independent, which became evident as the judge ignored numerous allegations of torture voiced by defendent during the proceedings. Many of the accused were also denied legal aid, including access to a lawyer before the start of the trial.
The International Commission of Jurists found that proceedings had fallen “well below international fair trial standards”. The authorities also refused to grant independent observers and international media access to the trial, whilst attempting to silence relatives of defendants who published information about the going-ons inside the courtroom on social media.
Prior to the trial, some defendants were held incommunicado in an undisclosed location. This includes leading human rights lawyer Dr Mohammed Al-Roken, who was subjected to an enforced disappearance and detained in solitary confinement for three months. During this time, many defendants report to have been forced to make “confessions” under duress. As such, the main piece of evidence used against Dr Mohamed Al-Mansouri, a lawyer and human rights defender, was a “confession” obtained through torture. He also reported that his pre-trial detention cell lacked windows and was continuously lit leading to disorientation and sleep disruption. Another defendant, Khalid al Nuaimi had lost 25kg by the time of his first appearance in court and suffered a curved back after being kept in isolation in a freezing cell.
The international community is also particularly concerned about the five UAE 94 prisoners, who have completed their 7-year sentences, but have not been released. Abdulla al-Hajri, Omran Al-Harethy, Mahmoud Al-Hoseny and Mansour Al-Ahmady were all due for release on 16 July 2019, and Fahad Al-Hajri’s prison term ended on 20 March 2020, however they remain behind bars at Abu Dhabi’s al-Razeen prison. The continued detention of inmates beyond their sentence breaches both international human rights norms and the UAE’s own laws regarding fair trials and due process.
ICFUAE urges the UAE authorities to release immediately and unconditionally all those imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly as a result of this grossly unfair trial.
We also call on the government of the UAE to comply with international fair trial standards and to put an end to the practice of indefinite detention.
- For further information or comment, please contact the ICFUAE team at email@example.com