United Arab Emirates: UAE: Human rights defenders face arrest and judicial harassment


Human rights defenders in the UAE continue to be targeted due to the exercise of their right to freedom of expression, including on-line, and for their peaceful promotion of human rights.

On 16 January 2017, academic and activist, Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla was arrested by UAE State Security Apparatus. He is a prominent political science professor and human rights defender. It is believed that he was arrested as a result of postings he made on Twitter in which he promoted freedom of expression in UAE. Details of his arrest and whereabouts are unknown at present. However, concern is expressed for his well-being.

The case of human rights defender Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith has been adjourned until 22 February 2017 following a brief hearing before the Federal Appeal Court.  His trial to date has failed to meet basic international standards for a fair trial. He is a respected economist and academic and was arrested in August 2015 during a raid on his home and held in an undisclosed location. Following his arrest he was held in solitary confinement in an undisclosed location for nine months. He was then transferred to Al-Sader jail where he suffers ill-treatment and is denied necessary medical attention.  Charges against him are based on comments he made on Twitter and include allegedly “committing a hostile act against a foreign state,” “posting false information in order to harm the reputation and stature of the state and one of its institutions” and “posting false information about UAE leaders and their policies”. For further information see Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)  appeals.

GCHR expresses serious concern at the arrest of Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla and the on-going judicial harassment on Dr.. Naser Bin Ghaith and believes, they are solely related to the exercise of their right to freedom of expression and their work in promoting and protecting human rights in UAE.

The GCHR urges the authorities in the UAE to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla and Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith as their arrests and detention are solely related to their peaceful human rights activities;
  2. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla and Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith while they remain in detention;
  3. Immediately and unconditionally release and drop all charges against all human rights defenders who are being detained as a result of their legitimate human rights activities and the exercise of their right to freedom of expression,;
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that 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.