ICFUAE Calls for the Release of Emirati Human Rights Defender Ahmed Mansoor on his 51st Birthday
Today, 22 October marks Ahmed Mansoor’s 51st birthday. ICFUAE urges the Emirati government to unconditionally release the prominent human rights defender on this day, his fourth birthday behind bars.
A poet and activist, Ahmed Mansoor was commonly known as the last person to speak out against human rights violations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), until he himself was arbitrarily detained on 20 March 2017.
After a grossly unfair trial, he was sentenced to ten years in prison on vague charges, including “defaming the UAE through social media channels”. These were in relation to his tweets criticising the UAE’s prosecutions of other activists as well as rights violations abroad, in Egypt and Yemen.
Since his arrest, the father of four has been held in unlawful permanent solitary confinement in Al-Sadr prison, Abu Dhabi. His world is a 4 square meter cell with no bed to sleep on nor books to read. He has not been permitted to leave his cell - not even to go to the canteen - apart from a handful of family visits, and only once has he been allowed outside to the prison’s exercise yard. In protest against these conditions and after being beaten by warders, he launched his second hunger strikes in September 2019. Though very brave, the hunger strike, which lasted several months, further worsened his already poor physical and psychological health. We, therefore, consider him to be highly vulnerable amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
His case has been repeatedly raised by UN human rights experts. In May 2019, seven UN Working Groups and Special Rapporteurs issued a statement urging the UAE authorities to provide Mansoor with medical treatment, improved living conditions and a retrial. The statement noted that his poor prison conditions “including prolonged solitary confinement, may constitute torture” and violated basic human rights standards “which risk taking an irrevocable toll on Mr Mansoor’s health”.
In February this year, more than 60 civil society organisations, writers, and Nobel laureates appealed to the UAE authorities to free detained human rights defenders during the Hay Festival Abu Dhabi. The joint letter was signed by Nobel laureates Wole Soyinka and Ahmed Galai, intellectual Noam Chomsky, British author Stephen Fry, and Egyptian author Ahdaf Soueif.
Our heart goes out to Ahmed Mansoor and his family on his 51st birthday. It is a disgrace that he is spending this day alone, in a dark cell. He is “guilty” of nothing more than peacefully standing up for the rights of others. His ongoing detention shows the contempt in which the Emirati government holds human rights and those who stand up for them.
His torturous detention conditions pose a clear and significant risk to his health and life, especially in light of COVID-19. It is therefore of paramount importance that the UAE heed calls from around the world demanding his immediate and unconditional release.