United Arab Emirates: /Bahrain: On New Year’s Eve, two members of GCHR’s team, Nabeel Rajab and Ahmed Mansoor, face show trials while appealing prison sentences


 As the New year 2019 approaches, prominent human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab and Ahmed Mansoor are going to court for the final appeals of their prison sentences, in what can only be termed a cynical ploy by authorities to distract attention from their cases while many people are on holiday. Rajab, the Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) who has been in jail since 13 June 2016, is appealing a five-year sentence in Bahrain. Mansoor, a member of GCHR’s Advisory Board who has been held in solitary confinement in Al-Wathba prison in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is appealing a ten-year sentence.

Mansoor’s latest hearing before the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court was on 24 December 2018, but he was not present. The judge adjourned the court until 31 December 2018. Reliable reports received by GCHR confirmed that Mansoor defended himself very well during the first appeal hearing on 17 December although the court appointed lawyer Tariq Al-Shamsi to act on his behalf. According to some reports it is possible that the verdict will be announced during the next hearing. If Mansoor’s sentence is upheld, the decision of the court is final and cannot be appealed.

Mansoor is the laureate of the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, and the last human rights defender to have been speaking out publicly defending people’s rights in the UAE before his arrest last year. Human rights groups have repeatedly called for his release.

Mansoor was essentially held incommunicado since his arrest on 20 March 2017 with only very infrequent family visits. He was sentenced on 29 May 2018 by the Federal Appeal Court in Abu Dhabi to ten years in prison and fined 1,000,000 Emirati Dirham (approximately USD $270,000) for posts he made on social media. The trial lacked the minimum international standards for fair trials and due process.

Mansoor was convicted of “publish[ing] false information, rumours and lies about the UAE” which “would damage the UAE's social harmony and unity.”

Elsewhere in the Gulf, on 31 December 2018, the Court of Cassation in Bahrain may issue its verdict in the appeal of the five-year prison sentence handed to Rajab for peaceful comments on his Twitter account about civilians deaths in Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, and allegations of torture in Jaw prison. He was charged with “disseminating false rumours in times of war.” Ahead of his appeal on 31 December 2018, over 50 NGOs including GCHR signed an open letter calling for Rajab to be released immediately and unconditionally.

Rajab, who is also President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), was previously sentenced to two years in prison in 2017 on charges of “publishing and broadcasting false news that undermines the prestige of the state” during TV interviews he gave in 2015 and 2016 in which he stated that Bahraini authorities bar reporters and human rights workers from entering the country.

GCHR and its partner organisations are very concerned about the safety and well-being of Ahmed Mansoor and Nabeel Rajab and other detained human rights defenders in the UAE and Bahrain who have faced poor treatment, including being tortured and held in arbitrary detention and solitary confinement for long periods of time before being brought to trial, contrary to international human rights law.

Please join us by asking your government, the UN and EU to press Bahraini and UAE authorities to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Ahmed Mansoor and Nabeel Rajab, who were arrested and sentenced solely for his peaceful human rights activities, quash their convictions and sentences, and drop all charges against them;
  2. Allow international observers including local diplomatic representatives into the court on 31 December 2018 and to subsequent trial sessions;
  3. Allow UN and EU experts, or international NGOs access to visit Ahmed Mansoor and Nabeel Rajab, as well as other human rights defenders, who are imprisoned in the UAE and Bahrain;
  4. Pending their release, ensure that Ahmed Mansoor and Nabeel Rajab are protected from torture and other ill-treatment, including prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement which can amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and
  5. Pending their release, ensure that Ahmed Mansoor and Nabeel Rajab are treated in line with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, including by providing regular access to their families, as well as to any medical care they may require.

 Join us! Email your message or Tweet using the hashtag #FreeAhmed and #FreeNabeel to the following:

UAE Authorities:

  1. Vice-President and Prime Minister HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, info@pmo.gov.ae / @HHShkMohd
  2. Minister of Interior Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, moi@moi.gov.ae

Bahraini Authorities:

  1. Minister of Interior: Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah Al-Khalifa @moi_Bahrain
  2. Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs: Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa @Khaled_Bin_Ali

And tag the following:

EU and UN representatives:

  1. European Parliament Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights Pier Antonio Panzeri, @AntonioPanzeri
  2. UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Michel Forst, @ForstMichel 
  3. UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression David Kaye @davidakaye

US and UK:

  1. United Kingdom / Foreign & Commonwealth Office / Human Rights Communications team @FCOHumanRights
  2. United States State Department @StateDept