United Arab Emirates: EU calls for release of Ahmed Mansoor and the end to sales of surveillance tools


The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to heed the call by the European Parliament to free all human rights defenders, particularly as it looks to take a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

On 16 September 2021, the European Parliament adopted a wide-ranging resolution on "The case of human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor in UAE". It calls for "the immediate and unconditional release of Ahmed Mansoor, Mohammed Al-Roken and Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith as well as all other human rights defenders, political activists and peaceful dissidents."

The resolution "deeply deplores the gap between the UAE’s claims to be a tolerant and rights-respecting country and the fact its own human rights defenders are detained in harsh conditions," including Mansoor, GCHR’s Advisory Board member, who "still remains in dire conditions in solitary confinement."

We welcome the reiteration of our calls for the EU to visit Mansoor in prison, and second the resolution’s request for Josep Borrell Fontelles, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR/VP), "to request prison visits to the human rights defenders during his upcoming visit to the UAE and to publicly and privately call for their immediate and unconditional release during meetings with the UAE authorities."

Among other issues raised, GCHR welcomes the resolution’s call urging all Member States "to suspend the sale and export of surveillance technology to the UAE." As a member of the MENA Coalition to Combat Digital Surveillance, GCHR has called for regulation of spyware sales to the region.

The resolution notes that Mansoor and Saudi woman human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul were both subjected to cyberattacks by the UAE authorities prior to their arrests. It "deeply deplores the role of the UAE authorities in the extradition of the women’s rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul to Saudi Arabia, where she has been imprisoned, tortured and persecuted for the advocacy of women’s rights." Al-Hathloul was awarded the 2020 Václav Havel Human Rights Award by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

As the Expo Dubai 2020 opens for six months starting on 01 October 2021 in the UAE, GCHR and two dozen partners are launching a campaign to free human rights defenders and help end violations of freedom of expression. The campaign includes a joint NGO letter and public petition to the authorities and an online cultural event, the Alternative Human Rights Expo, on 14 October 2021, which will feature the poetry of Mansoor.