United Arab Emirates: European Parliament issues resolution condemning imprisonment of Ahmed Mansoor and reveals that he is appealing his 10-year sentence

06.10.18

Prominent human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor is appealing his ten-year prison sentence to the Supreme Court of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The news comes as the European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution on 04 October 2018 condemning his imprisonment and calling for his release from Al-Sadr prison, revealing his whereabouts for the first time. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is very concerned that Mansoor will not get a fair hearing, given that his previous trial did not comply with international legal standards, and the same court is hearing the appeal. GCHR echoes calls for his immediate release.

Mansoor was sentenced to 10 years in prison on 29 May 2018 for his human rights activities under the 2012 Cybercrimes Law and has been detained since 20 March 2017 for his human rights activities. He received the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2015 and is a member of the GCHR advisory board. He is the father of four young boys.

The EP resolution “Strongly condemns the harassment, persecution and detention of Ahmed Mansoor as well as of all other human rights defenders solely on the basis of their human rights work and their use of their right to freedom of expression both online and offline;” and “Calls on the authorities to release Mr Mansoor immediately and unconditionally, and to drop all charges against him, as he is a prisoner of conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, including through his human rights work; also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience in the UAE and for all charges against them to be dropped.”

The EP also called on the UAE to amend the 2012 Cybercrimes Law and other laws, the Counter-Terrorism Law, and Federal Law No 2/2008, which it said “are repeatedly used to prosecute human rights defenders; used to persecute human rights defenders.”

The EP also “Expresses its grave concern at the reports that Ahmed Mansoor has been subjected to forms of torture or ill-treatment while in detention, and that he is being held in solitary confinement; urges the authorities to investigate these allegations and grant him immediate and regular access to a lawyer, to his family, and to any medical care he may require; reminds the UAE authorities that prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement can amount to a form of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under international human rights law, and that the lack of an arrest warrant or any judicial oversight in his arrest and detention represents a breach of the fundamental principles of due process under international human rights law.”

It has been very difficult to ascertain details of the conditions of Mansoor’s imprisonment, for he has no access to the outside world, including his family whose visits have been suspended, and he seems to be appealing without the benefit of a lawyer. Mansoor had previously said that if he were to go to prison, he would not accept a state-appointed lawyer to defend him, since all independent human rights lawyers are behind bars.

Until now, Mansoor’s whereabouts have been unknown, but the EP resolution states that the authorities say he is being held in Al-Sadr prison in Abu Dhabi. On 26 February 2018, two lawyers from Ireland approached the UAE Ministry of the Interior in an attempt to determine the exact whereabouts of Mansoor, and to visit him if possible. They went on a mission to the UAE on behalf of GCHR, the Martin Ennals Foundation, Front Line Defenders, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of International federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).

The EP resolution notes that “the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights has assessed that the arrest and secret detention of Ahmed Mansoor may constitute an act of reprisal for his engagement with UN human rights mechanisms and for the views he has expressed on social media, including Twitter, as well as for being an active member of organisations such as the Gulf Centre for Human Rights.”

Apart from what has been reported in the state media, there are few details about the trial. On 29 May 2018, Mansoor was convicted of various charges and sentenced to 10 years by the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court. He was also fined one million Dirhams (USD $272,294) and the court ordered him to be put under surveillance for three years upon his release. Mansoor was convicted of “insulting the 'status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols' including its leaders” and of “seeking to damage the relationship of the UAE with its neighbours by publishing false reports and information on social media.”

The mission report, “Ahmed Mansoor: The Missing Prisoner”, called the verdict “grossly unfair” and noted, “There was no public announcement that the trial would take place. The conviction and sentence were reported in the media, but there has been no public pronouncement or information on the trial itself. While Mansoor was represented by a lawyer, this was only announced in the press after the fact. Furthermore, it appears that the appeal process would be held in the same court.” The report is available in English here, as well as in Arabic.