Emirati prisoner of conscience held for 10 months after completion of sentence
Today marks the 10-month extension of the arbitrary detention of the blogger and activist, Osama al-Najjar.
Osama al-Najjar was due to be released in March of last year. Instead of this, however, Emirati authorities transferred him to a 'counselling centre' after the court considered him a “threat” to national security under Article 40 of the UAE Federal Law of Combatting Terrorism Offences. This was in spite of the fact the al-Najjar was originally convicted on the basis of Federal Law on Combatting Cybercrimes, not terror related offences.
The UAE authorities claim that the use of counselling centres is to guide and reform those convicted of terrorist offences by providing them with relevant psychological and social support. However, the use of the service in the above case suggests otherwise.
In 2014, Osama al-Najjar was sentenced to three years in prison after issuing tweets that expressed concern over his father's ill-treatment in prison. Osama's father, Hussain Ali al-Najjar al-Hammadi, who is currently serving an 11 year sentence, was one of a number of prisoners of conscience convicted in 2013 following the mass show trial of 94 government critics and reform advocates. Amnesty International consider both 'prisoners of conscience' and have consistently issued calls for their release.
Amnesty reported that in the six months following his arrest in 2014, al-Najjar was held in a state of solitary confinement, denied access a lawyer, and tortured on numerous occasions by Emirati security officials. The rights group have since described the UAE authorities' decision not to release al-Najjar as “indefensible”.
The Emirati authorities' refusal to release Osama al-Najjar despite the completion of his sentence is yet another example of their complete disregard for the basic rights of those within its bonders. This not only constitutes a breach of international law, but is also in contravention to the UAE's own laws regarding holding prisoners beyond their release dates.
Moreover, this case is a further illustration of how the Emirati authorities use the pretext of national security and counter-terrorism measures as a means to arbitrarily detain human rights defenders. Ultimately, al-Najjar's continued detention serves no other purpose than to stifle freedom of speech and expression in the country. We call for his immediate and unconditional release.
- For more information, press queries or comment, please contact the ICFUAE team at firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 7979 6666 98
- For Amnesty Internationals comment on the case, please see https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/03/uae-decision-not-to-release-osama-al-najjar-indefensible/