The UAE94 trial six years on
On the 6th anniversary of the grossly unfair mass UAE 94 trial, the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE remembers the serious and heinous violations of human rights and internationally recognised standards for free trials that marred the proceedings.
On 27th January 2013, 94 prominent human rights lawyers, academics, student leaders and teachers were charged with founding, organising and administering an organisation aimed at overthrowing the government.
The group had engaged in peaceful political debate for many years in the UAE and advocated for greater rights. In 2011, the defendants signed a petition calling for democratic reform in the country.
At the conclusion of the trial on 2nd July 2013, 56 of these 94 were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, 5 of them to 7 years, and 8 others, who were tried in absentia, to 15 years. The other 25 were acquitted.
Numerous credible allegations of torture and inhuman treatment were made and were not investigated, putting the authorities in breach of their international obligations.
Some defendants were held incommunicado at a secret location, an illegal practice according to international law and multiple human rights conventions.
The trial failed to meet the internationally agreed standards of a fair trial. The tribunal was not independent, and the judge deliberately ignored the numerous allegations of torture, suggesting the involvement of other state agencies.
The international observation was not allowed. The international media and legal observers were not admitted to the hearings. Furthermore, people who used social media to relay information were imprisoned and journalists were prevented from interviewing the defendants' family.
Moreover, the defendants' rights to legal assistance were not protected: Not all the defendants had an opportunity to see a lawyer before the trial, and none of the defendants or their lawyers received documents in good time so as to prepare an effective defence. The International Commission of Jurists conclusively found that the proceedings had fallen “well below international fair trial standards”.
Six years on from the trial, many of those convicted remain detained in Abu Dhabi’s al-Razeen prison, a notoriously repressive jail where inmates are regularly subjected to mistreatment and abuse by prison warders. As long as these activists remain behind bars, one cannot speak honestly about freedom in the UAE. If the Emirati authorities are in any way serious about the UAE’s Year of Tolerance, they must immediately and unconditionally free these prisoners, whose release is long overdue.