Amina al-Abdouli, prisoner of conscience, on hunger strike since 23 February
Female prisoner of conscience Amina al-Abdouli has launched a distress call in a new voice recording leaked from Abu Dhabi’s infamous Al Wathba prison, after new speech-related charges were brought against her in direct reprisal for her attempts to reach out to human rights organisations.
In the recording, Ms al-Abdouli confirms that she has been on a liquids-only hunger strike since 23 February in protest against her conviction in a new case related to audio recordings leaked last year in which she also appealed to human rights groups for support. A further conviction prolongs her current 5-year prison term and delays her return to her family, which was scheduled for November of this year.
In possible reprisal against the launch of her most recent hunger strike, prison authorities subjected her to solitary confinement from late February until 12 March. Prolonged isolation can be detrimental to a person’s health and is considered a form of torture.
Amina’s already poor health has further deteriorated as a result of the hunger strike: in her most recent recording she states that as well as notable weight loss, she is experiencing extreme fatigue.
At al-Wathba prison, notorious for its brutal detention conditions and systematic use of torture, Amina has consistently been denied medical care despite suffering from kidney failure and liver disease. The UAE authorities have similarly denied care to Maryam al-Balushi, a fellow detainee, who attempted suicide last month, and who suffers from liver cirrhosis and kidney stones. In the past, medical negligence at al-Wathba has sadly resulted in death, as exemplified by the passing of Alia Abdulnour, who died from breast cancer after years of being denied medical treatment.
Al-Abdouli was arrested in November 2015 for exercising her right to freedom of expression through tweets in which she admired the Arab spring in Syria. She was consequently detained in an undisclosed location for seven and a half months before being transferred to al-Wathba prison.
Last month, in an official communication addressed to the UAE authorities, several UN Special Rapporteurs expressed deep concern about the reported torture and mistreatment of Ms al-Abdouli and Ms al-Balushi. They stated that “the UAE has the responsibility to protect the rights of individuals deprived of their liberty, by ensuring that conditions of detention respect their dignity and mental integrity”.
In agreement with the UN human rights experts, we call on the Emirati government to urgently undertake a prompt and impartial investigation into the alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment, to bring the perpetrators to justice and, most importantly, to free Ms al-Abdouli and Ms al-Balushi immediately and unconditionally.