United Arab Emirates: FACT SHEET: Unjustly imprisoned Emirati human rights defender’s health at risk
Ahmed Mansoor is in solitary confinement in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), serving a 10-year sentence for the “crime” of speaking out about grave human rights violations in the UAE. We fear that Mansoor’s health is at risk as a result of the awful conditions of his imprisonment, which compelled him to undertake a month-long hunger strike in March. While his health has reportedly improved since he ended his hunger strike, he remains in terrible conditions in solitary confinement.
- Mansoor is being held in an isolation ward in Al-Sadr prison, in Abu Dhabi, with no bed, no running water, no access to a shower, and a hole in the floor as a toilet.
- He is not allowed to leave his 4X4 meter cell. In two years, he has been allowed outside to the sports yard only once, after international attention to his hunger strike.
- He is not allowed regular family visits or other rights normally accorded to prisoners, such as visits to the canteen, regular telephone calls and access to books, newspapers, and TV.
- On 7 May 2019 the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and six other UN human rights experts condemned Mansoor’s conditions of detention, noting “the poor conditions of his detention in the United Arab Emirates, including prolonged solitary confinement, may constitute torture.”
- On 17 March 2019, Mansoor began a hunger strike to protest poor prison conditions and his unfair conviction. His health deteriorated significantly. A local source in the prison who cannot be identified for security reasons says Mansoor was moving very slowly and appeared alarmingly weak.
- Mansoor’s family was allowed to visit him once in April and bring him special glasses for his deteriorating vision, and once again in mid-May.
Arbitrary arrest and unfair conviction:
- Mansoor was the only human rights advocate remaining free in the UAE prior to his arrest on 20 March 2017, when security forces raided his home at around midnight. The official UAE news agency said authorities were detaining him for using social media to publish “flawed information” and “false news” to “harm the reputation of the state.”
- Authorities refused to disclose his whereabouts following his arrest, or allow him access to his lawyer or family.
- More than a year later, on 29 May 2018, the State Security Chamber of the Federal Appeal Court convicted Mansoor of insulting the “status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols,” publishing “false reports” on social media, and “seeking to damage the relationship of the UAE with its neighbors.”
- The court sentenced him to 10 years in prison and fined him one million Emirati dirhams, equivalent to more than a quarter of a million dollars.
- His conviction and sentence were upheld on 31 December 2018 by the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court.
- The trial was closed to media and diplomatic or other outside observers.
- The charges and the conviction manifestly violate Mansoor’s right to free expression and opinion under international law.
- Ahmed Mansoor serves on the advisory boards of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division.
- Mansoor began his work in defense of human rights in 2006, and since 2011 has been subject to incessant government harassment and persecution.
- In April 2011 he was imprisoned with four other human rights defenders - the UAE 5 - for more than seven months after petitioning the president of the UAE to empower the legislature and extend voting rights to all adult UAE citizens.
- He and the other defendants were convicted of insulting the UAE’s rulers on 27 November 2011. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE president, pardoned them the following day, but authorities repeatedly refused to return Mansoor’s passport, effectively denying him the right to travel.
- In September 2012, Mansoor was twice subjected to physical attacks at Ajman University which he believed had been orchestrated by the State Security Apparatus, on one occasion hours after he participated by video in an event at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
- In October 2014, parties likely linked to the UAE State Security Apparatus hacked his Twitter account.
- In August 2016, Mansoor received anonymous messages urging him to click on an attachment that purported to include information about torture by UAE security services. The Toronto-based Citizen Lab determined the attachment was spyware intended to penetrate his phone.
- Despite these attacks and government persecution, Mansoor never retreated from his human rights convictions and showed unrivaled courage in continuing to speak out.
- In October 2015, Mansoor won international recognition when he received the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. UAE authorities prevented him from attending the ceremony in Geneva.
- The European Parliament, UN Special Rapporteurs, and human rights organizations have all repeatedly called for his immediate and unconditional release.