United Arab Emirates: UAE: Outrageous 10-year sentence against human rights defender Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith a significant blow to human rights
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is outraged that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities ignored calls to release Dr Nasser Bin Ghaith, who was sentenced to ten years in prison on 29 March 2017. Bin Ghaith, a prominent economist, academic and human rights defender, has been imprisoned in solitary confinement since his arrest on 18 August 2015.
According to the Emirates News Agency, Bin Ghaith was sentenced for allegedly “communicating with secret organisations linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, by creating accounts on social media and publishing photos and articles that are offensive to the state’s symbols and values, its internal and foreign policies and its relations with an Arab state.” The statement said that the court also ordered the “confiscation of devices and tools used in the crime, and the closure of online sites that were [allegedly] established by the accused.”
Bin Ghaith’s conviction and sentence are based solely on his peaceful activities, including his posts on Twitter expressing peaceful criticism of the human rights records of the UAE and Egyptian governments and his calls for greater respect for human rights, freedoms and accountability in both countries. His charges also relate to unplanned meetings that he had during his travels in the region with political activists whom the UAE government has claimed are members of banned “terror” organizations. The charges were brought under vague and broad provisions in the Penal Code, 2012 cybercrime law, and the 2014 counterterror law.
Under legislation in force since November 2016, his conviction and sentence can be appealed to the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court. If the sentence is upheld, Bin Ghaith will remain in prison until 2025 with time served.
Following his arrest in August 2015, Bin Ghaith was kept in solitary confinement in an undisclosed location for nine months, during which time he has said that he was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment including through beatings and sleep-deprivation. In May 2016, long after his trial had already begun, he was moved to the maximum security wing of Al Sadr Prison in Abu Dhabi where the authorities have continued to hold him in solitary confinement.
GCHR has serious concerns as to the conditions in which Bin Ghaith is being held, in addition to the total disregard for international fair trial standards.
GCHR continues to:
- Call on the UAE authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Dr Nasser Bin Ghaith and all other prisoners of conscience and respect their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly;
- Call on the UAE authorities to, pending his release, remove Dr Nasser Bin Ghaith from solitary confinement, as prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement amounts to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under international law; and
- Call on the UAE’s allies to use their influence to urge the UAE authorities to release Dr Nasser Bin Ghaith and all other prisoners of conscience.
For more information, please see a joint appeal by 10 NGOs including GCHR at https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1531.