United Arab Emirates: Release prominent human rights lawyer Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken

18.07.22

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls today on all international mechanisms, including the UN mechanisms, the EU and countries that have influence in the Emirates, especially the US and Britain, to intervene urgently to ensure that the Emirati authorities release prominent human rights defender Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken, who completed his sentence on 17 July 2022.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken is an internationally recognised human rights lawyer and an academic specialising in constitutional law. He previously held the position of head of the Emirates Jurists Association, which the authorities arbitrarily dissolved. He has authored a number of books, written many articles, and appeared in television interviews, speaking on various topics. He was awarded the Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize for the year 2017, in addition to other awards for his hard and dedicated work in the field of human rights.

The main reason for targeting him was his peaceful and legitimate work in the field of human rights and his defence of Emirati prisoners of conscience in various courts. He attracted the further ire of the authorities for his signature of the Reform Petition, among 133 citizens, including men and women from the different intellectual, legal and political spheres of the UAE. The petition, which was submitted on 03 March 2011 to the President of the State, demanded, "The election of all members of the Federal National Council by all citizens, as is the practice in democratic countries around the world." It also called for "amending the constitutional articles related to the Federal National Council to ensure it has full legislative and oversight powers."

On 17 July 2012, Dr. Al-Roken was arrested as part of a major crackdown by security forces in Ras Al Khaimah, Dubai and Sharjah against human rights defenders, activists and advocates of reform across the UAE. They were arrested on the orders of the Public Prosecutor, based on unsubstantiated allegations that they belong to an organisation that poses a threat to national security.

On 02 July 2013, the Abu Dhabi Federal Supreme Court issued verdicts convicting 69 accused members of the UAE94 group, with Dr. Al-Roken sentenced to 10 years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. The trial lacked minimum international standards of fair trial and due process.

While serving his sentence in Al-Razeen prison, Dr. Al-Roken was subjected to many documented violations, including being placed in a solitary cell, deprived of communication and family visits and prevented from obtaining and reading books. He was also subjected to ill-treatment and torture while in his cell.

On 10 June 2022, the GCHR issued an urgent appeal, demanding the release of prisoners of conscience in the UAE who have completed their sentences, and the publication of a list of all their names. It was stated as follows, "The higher authorities have taken a decision not to release any of the members of the UAE94 group at the end of their sentences, and to refer them to the Counselling Centre, which means continuing their detention for an indefinite period unless they agree to the aforementioned conditions for their release."

The above mentioned urgent appeal documented the State Security Apparatus carrying out a process of coercive bargaining with prisoners of conscience, including forcing them to appear in the official media to denounce their human rights work, and to express remorse in exchange for their release. The same reports confirmed that most prisoners of conscience rejected this offer outright.

Recommendations

The GCHR calls on the entire international community, especially the governments that have influence in the Emirates, such as the United States of America, Britain, the governments of the European Union and Canada, and all United Nations mechanisms, in particular the relevant special rapporteurs, to intervene immediately to ensure the release of Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken, as well as all prisoners of conscience. Furthermore, GCHR calls for the release of all other prisoners who have completed their sentences and demands that they be granted visiting rights whilst in prison and that their health and physical safety be secured.