Leading human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor undergoing secret trial in UAE
In the last few days it has emerged that the award-winning Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor has finally been bought to trial after spending more than a year in arbitrary detention.
Yesterday, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) reported that Mansoor, who is a member of GCHR’s advisory board, had received two court hearings - one in March 2018, the other, a couple of days ago, on 11 April.
However, as Mansoor does not have proper access to legal counsel, there remains no details of charges brought against him. Shortly following his detention in March of last year, Emirati authorities issued a statement saying that Mansoor had been arrested for using his social media account to “publish false information that damages the country’s reputation” and to “spread hatred and sectarianism.” This suggests that his charges may be based violations of the UAE’s cybercrime law. Since its institution in 2012, scores of rights activists have been detained for online criticism of the regime.
In the weeks leading up to his arrest, Mansoor had been using social media to call for the release of Emirati prisoner of conscience Osama al-Najjar – who remains in prison despite completing his sentence in March 2017. Al-Najjar himself was convicted in line with the cybercrime law after tweeting about human rights abuses in the UAE.
Mansoor’s exact detention location is still unknown though GCHR believe he is being held in solitary confinement at a maximum-security prison. In February 2018, two Dublin-based lawyers travelled to the UAE on behalf of the Martin Ennals Foundation to track down Mansoor’s location but were unable to discover his whereabouts.
Ahmed Mansoor is one of the worlds most prominent human rights defenders. Over the years he has worked extensively with international rights organisations to raise awareness to human rights abuses in the UAE. In this capacity, he is a member of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and has a seat on the on the advisory committee at Human Rights Watch. In 2015, he won the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. It is seemingly for this reason why the Emirati authorities would like to conduct his trial out of sight.
It is imperative that Ahmed Mansoor’s trial is conducted in line with internationally recognised fair trial standards. To ensure this, Emirati authorities must immediately reveal his location, allow international legal observers into the court to monitor proceedings and grant Mansoor access to a lawyer of his choosing.
Fundamentally, however, we maintain that he should not be standing trial in the first place. There is no justification for Mansoor’s continued detention which only serves to further stifle freedom of expression in the UAE. In reality, all that Ahmed is guilty of is raising awareness of the systematic human rights violations in his country. Therefore, ICFUAE reiterates its call for his immediate and unconditional release.