United Arab Emirates: / Bahrain:On New Year’s Eve, sentences upheld for Nabeel Rajab and Ahmed Mansoor in court of last resort

31.12.18

Prominent human rights defenders Ahmed Mansoor and Nabeel Rajab remain in prison after both of their appeals were rejected by a court of last resort today, on 31 December 2018. Mansoor will have to serve out his ten-year prison sentence in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Al-Wathba prison, where he has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest on 20 March 2017. Rajab has been in prison in Bahrain since 13 June 2016, where he has been serving combined prison sentences of seven years for tweets and media interviews.

Rajab is Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), as well as President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of FIDH. Mansoor is a GCHR Advisory Board member, 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.

Both men have worked tirelessly for GCHR since it was founded in 2011. Both men have now reached the end of their appeals processes.

On 31 December 2018, the Court of Cassation in Bahrain upheld Rajab’s five-year prison sentence for peaceful comments on his Twitter account about civilian deaths in Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, and allegations of torture in Jaw prison. He was charged with “spreading false rumours in time of war,” “insulting public authorities,” and “insulting a foreign country.” At a time when international attention is focused on ending the war in Yemen, Rajab’s comments seem prescient and wholly justified.

Ahead of his appeal on 31 December, over 50 NGOs including GCHR signed an open letter calling for Rajab to be released immediately and unconditionally. In August 2018, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention published an opinion determining that Rajab’s imprisonment is arbitrary. It even noted that he should never have been subjected to a trial in the first place, and called for his immediate release and a right to compensation and other reparations.

The United States Department of State, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, the Committee Against Torture, and the European Parliament (EP) have all called for his release.

Rajab 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. Rajab faces additional charges of “spreading false news and statements and malicious rumors that undermine the prestige of the state” in relation to letters published in The New York Times and Le Monde. There are up to 14 other charges reportedly hanging over his head.

Mansoor’s appeal process happened with little advance notice in December and was over quickly. His sentence was upheld by the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court on 31 December 2018 (previously reported as 30 December.) 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. Mansoor was not present at the next hearing on 24 December. The decision of the court is final and cannot be appealed.

GCHR and partners - CIVICUS, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), Martin Ennals Foundation, Rights Realization Centre and FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders - issued an urgent appeal to the UAE authorities to end to Mansoor’s unjust imprisonment, and called for international support to free him. The EP adopted a resolution on 04 October 2018 condemning Mansoor’s imprisonment and calling for his release.

Mansoor was essentially held incommunicado since his arrest in 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 reported to have been convicted of “publish[ing] false information, rumours and lies about the UAE” which “would damage the UAE's social harmony and unity.”

GCHR and its partners are very concerned about the 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/or held in solitary confinement for long periods of time before being brought to trials which lacked due process, contrary to international human rights law.

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

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Ahmed Mansoor and Nabeel Rajab, quash their convictions, and drop all charges against them;
  1. 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;

  2. Ensure that Ahmed Mansoor is 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 that his allowed regular access to his family; and
  3. 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 any medical care they may require.

Join us! Email or Tweet using the hashtags #FreeAhmed and #FreeNabeel to the following:

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

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

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 

Foreign countries with diplomatic representatives in the UAE and Bahrain:

  1. United States State Department, @StateDept
  2. United Kingdom Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Human Rights & Democracy department, @FCOHumanRights
  3. Canada Foreign policy, @CanadaFP
  4. French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, @francediplo_EN
  5. Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs @DutchMFA