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UAE- Travel bans imposed against human rights activists as restriction on freedom of movement increases

2012-07-01

Beirut, 01 July 2012-- The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has received information that on-line bloggers and human rights defenders are being subjected to travel bans in an attempt by authorities to silence them and to deter them from their human rights works.  Online activists Musabeh Al Rumaithy and Rashid Al Shamsy, who have called for reform and greater freedom for UAE citizens through their Twitter accounts, are the latest activists to have such a restriction placed upon them.

On 29 June 2012 Musabeh Al-Rumaithy was due to travel with his family. However, suspecting that he might face difficulties at the border he attempted to cross the border with Oman on the previous day. At the checkpoint he was informed that there was a travel ban in place against him and that he would not be permitted to leave the UAE. He was therefore forced to cancel the trip that he had planned with his family.

On 26 June 2012, Rashid Al Shamsi was travelling with his family and children when he was stopped at the airport. They were held at the airport immigration office for approximately one hour before being informed that there was a travel ban in place against the human rights activist and that he was not permitted to leave the country based on instructions received from State Security in Abu Dhabi. He requested an official document outlining the grounds for the restrictions but he was denied such a document.

These travel bans are the latest in a series of such measures imposed on human rights activists in the UAE. Human rights defenders Ahmed Mansoor, Dr. Mohammed Al Mansoory and Jumaa Al Felasy as well as other defenders are also currently prohibited from leaving the country. There has recently been an increase in the number of activists who have not been informed of a travel ban being in place against them until they are at the airport. It is often the case that no reason for the ban is given apart from the officials stating that they are acting on instructions from State Security.

There is an on-going trend in the region of judicial harassment and fabricated charges against human rights defenders, which are often based on travel bans. Furthermore often such cases are sent to be heard before specific judges with political affiliations rather than being designated to a judge at random in conformity with usual court procedure.

The GCHR expresses concern at the increase in the number of travel bans being imposed on human rights defenders in the UAE and believes that such bans are directly related to their peaceful human rights activities, their calls for reform and the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression. The prohibition placed by the authorities constitutes a blatant breach of their right of freedom of movement.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) urges the authorities in UAE to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally revoke the travel bans imposed on Musabeh Al Rumaithy Rashid Al-Shamsy, Ahmed Mansoor, Dr. Mohammed Al-Mansoory, Jumaa Al-Felasy and all other human rights activists which the GCHR believes have been imposed solely as a result of their legitimate human rights work;
  2. Ensure that Musabeh Al-Rumaithy, Rashid Al-Shamsy, Ahmed Mansoor, Dr. Mohammed Al-Mansoory, Jumaa Al-Felasy and all other human rights activists are free to travel to and from the UAE without undue interference by authorities;
  3. Return of passports held by the authorities and belonging to Ahmed Mansoor, Dr. Mohammed Al-Mansoory, and Jumaa Al-Felasy or other activists immediately and without any delay;
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in UAE are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment. 

GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 5 (c): “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (c) To communicate with non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations“ and to Article 6 (c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters“.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights is an independent centre and has been registered in Ireland. The Centre works to strengthen support for human rights defenders and independent journalists in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.