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UAE: Human rights defender Osama Al-Najjar sentenced to three years in prison

2014-11-26

On 25 November 2014, the State Security Court at the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi sentenced human rights defender and on-line activist Osama Al-Najjar to three years in prison and 500,000 Emirati Dirham (approximately US$136,000). There is no opportunity to appeal the sentence. During a hearing which lasted only ten minutes, presiding judge Mohammad Al-Tunaigi also ordered the confiscation of the on-line activist's electronic equipment and the permanent closure of all his accounts on social media websites.

Osama Al-Najjar, who was violently arrested on 17 March 2014, was not taken to court until 23 September. He was charged with belonging to Al-Islah, offending the State via Twitter, instigating hatred against the State via Twitter, and spreading lies about the torture of his father, Hossain Al-Najjar. His father is one of the prisoners in the group known as the UAE94, who is currently serving an 11-year jail term for his human rights activities. For further information please see previous Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) appeals, including from 10 November 2014: http://gc4hr.org/news/view/815.

The GCHR expresses concern at the three-years imprisonment handed to Osama Al-Najjar after a trial that lacked due process and didn't follow international standards for fair trial. The GCHR regards the trial as part of a systematic trend adopted by authorities in the UAE which includes targeting on-line activists and putting restrictions on the right to freedom of expression in the country.

The GCHR urges the authorities in the UAE to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Osama Al-Najjar and release him from detention;
  2. Guarantee his physical and psychological integrity and security while he remains in detention;
  3. Guarantee in all circumstances that on-line activists and all human rights defenders in the UAE are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment. 

The 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 6 (b and c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; (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”, and to Article 12 (1 and 2): “(1) Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (2) The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”