Quarterly Briefing (January - March 2018)
This briefing marks the anniversaries of the arbitrary detention and unfair arrest of four prisoners of conscience in the UAE.
Osama al-Najar was due to be released on 17th March 2017 after completing a three year prison sentence for the crime of publishing tweets which expressed concern over his father's ill-treatment in prison. Branded as a threat to “national security”, he remains to this day in custody.
Ahmed Mansoor, an internationally celebrated Emirati Human rights defender, is still to face charges after his arbitrary arrest on 20th March 2017. In the middle of the night, 12 state security forces took him to an undisclosed location, where he was allegedly tortured. One year later, he has not been charged or been given a chance to defend himself in court, has not had access to a lawyer and has only been permitted two short, supervised family visits. The authorities issued a statement saying he had been arrested for using his social media account “to publish false information that damages the country's reputation” and to “spread hatred and sectarism”. Ahmed Mansoor has been engaged in peaceful political debate, advocating for human rights and calling for democratic reform in the country.
Furthermore, despite international outrage and repeated calls from human rights organisations for their release, Tayseer al-Najjar, a Jordanian journalist, and Nasser bin Ghaith, an eminent Emirati academic and economist, are still languishing in prison simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
Tayseer al-Najjar was sentenced to three year in prison on March 15th, 2017 for comments he had posted on Facebook in 2014 (while he was still working in Jordan) criticising Israel's war in Gaza, as well as Egypt and the UAE's position on this. According to the UAE authorities, this equates to “insulting symbols of the state on social media” and warrants imprisonment.
Similarly, Nasser Bin Ghaith was subjected to an enforced disappearance in August 2016. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on 29th March 2017 for twitter comments critical of the UAE's human rights record, which were deemed to “harm the reputation of the state and its institutions”.
Focusing on these four cases, this briefing demonstrates the increasingly coercive nature of the Emirati security state where no protest or dissent of any kind is tolerated. Scores of political opponents and human rights activists who have criticised the UAE government have suffered the worst consequences for doing so. Yet, their demands are far from revolutionary. They simply call for greater rights in the country.