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UAE: Jailed prominent human rights lawyer Mohammed Al-Roken awarded human rights prize

2017-11-21

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) congratulates jailed Emirati prominent human rights lawyer Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken, who has been awarded the Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize for 2017 at a ceremony in Venice, Italy on 10 November 2017. Dr. Al-Roken, who is serving a ten-year sentence in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was unable to accept the prestigious award, so Mohammed Al-Saqer, a colleague from the now-dissolved Association of Jurists, accepted it on his behalf.

In his speech, Al-Saqer called Dr. Al-Roken “a man of principles who defends the human and civic rights of all people.” He noted that Dr. Al-Roken was a brave lawyer who would take on cases known to be “dangerous” to defend, because he was “the only one who will accept this challenge and he is paying now for all that with his freedom.”

He continued, “Dr. Al-Roken did not work for fame, but was working to defend the voiceless, the poor people, and citizens in order to deliver the rights to those who deserve to have it. He is a person who looked at the needs of people more than a lawyer seeking fame or money, and some of those whose cases he took said after his arrest that he refused to take any money from them for his work.

Dr. Al-Roken was arrested on 17 July 2012, just after his son and his daughter's husband were arrested as part of a round-up of activists, including prominent human rights defenders, judges, academics, and student leaders. Dr. Al-Roken was among many others who were held in secret detention centres and subjected to torture after being placed in solitary confinement for months, uninterrupted light, high cold, beatings and many violations by the State Security Apparatus.

On 04 March 2013, the government commenced the mass, unfair trial of 94 defendants before the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi in case that came to be known as the UAE94. The government accused them of “establishing an organisation that aimed to overthrow the government,” a charge which they all denied. On 2 July 2013, the court convicted 69 of the defendants sentencing them with up to 15 years in prison. Dr. Al-Roken was sentenced to 10 years, and Al-Saqer to five years in prison in absentia. Their trials were widely condemned as lacking the minimum international standards of fair trial and due process.

Dr. Al-Roken is currently in Al-Razeen prison, where his movement and communications are controlled. Family visits take place behind glass barriers, and he has been held in solitary confinement without any justification whatsoever. His books and papers have also been confiscated. Dr. Al-Roken has said, "We are treated here like hostages held by the kidnappers and not as prisoners governed by the law."

Al-Saqer concluded his speech by asking participants at the award ceremony to call on the government of the UAE to release Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken and all prisoners of conscience. GCHR echoes those calls.

The Ludovic-Trarieux Award comes with a prize of 20,000 euros (USD$22,000), and is given to lawyers anywhere in the world who defend human rights, often at great risk to themselves. The European Bar Human Rights Institute, created the award, named after Trarieux, who in 1898 founded France's Human Rights League. The laureate is chosen by a jury of 27 European lawyers every year. It was previously awarded to former South African President Nelson Mandela in 1985, to Iranian lawyer Mahrangiz Kar in 2002, to lawyer Mahienour Al-Massry from Egypt in 2014 and to jailed lawyer Walid Abu Al-Khair from Saudi Arabia in 2015. See: http://www.ludovictrarieux.org/uk-index.htm