United Arab Emirates: Authorities continue to hold prisoners of conscience past their sentences and arrest human rights lawyer

03.08.22

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) condemns in the strongest terms the Emirati authorities' failure to release 40 prisoners of conscience and the deliberate intention to hold them despite the completion of their sentences. Many of them are part of a group of prisoners collectively known as the UAE94, who were arrested in 2012 and sentenced from seven to fifteen years in prison during a grossly unfair trial in 2013 for their pro-democracy activities. In addition, GCHR strongly protests the suspicious recent arrest of a prominent US human rights lawyer who was transiting through the airport in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Additional sentences handed down to women prisoners of conscience

Two women, who are listed below, are prisoners of conscience who have completed their original sentences, and in order to keep them in prison in reprisal for speaking out about their terrible conditions, a new fabricated charge was brought against them in an unfair trial:

1. Amina Al-Abdouli

She was arrested on 19 November 2015, and on 31 October 2016, she was sentenced to five years in prison. Her sentence expired on 19 November 2020.  New false charges were brought against her.

2. Maryam Al-Balushi

She was arrested on 19 November 2015, and on 22 February 2017, she was sentenced to five years in prison. Her sentence expired on 19 November 2020. New false charges were brought against her.

On 28 April 2021, the Federal Court of Appeal issued a three-year prison sentence for Al-Abdouli and Al-Balushi in case no. 61 of 2021, on the charge of allegedly “publishing false information disturbing public order”.

List of prisoners of conscience who continue to be held

The names of prisoners of conscience who have completed their sentences but remain in prison are as follows:

1. Abdullah Ibrahim Al-Helou

He was arrested on 22 April 2014, and on 13 June 2016, he was sentenced to three years in prison as his sentence expired on 22 April 2017.

2. Abdulwahed Hassan Al-Badi Al-Shehhi

He was arrested on 26 March 2013, and on 03 March 2014, he was sentenced to five years in prison as his sentence expired on 26 March 2018.

3. Khalifa Rabia

He was arrested on 23 July 2013, and on 10 March 2014, he was sentenced to five years in prison as his sentence expired on 23 July 2018.

4. Abdullah Abdulqader Al-Hajri

He was arrested on 16 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to seven years in prison. His sentence expired on 16 July 2019. Member of the UAE94 group.

5. Mahmoud Hassan Al-Hosani

He was arrested on 16 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to seven years in prison. His sentence expired on 16 July 2019. Member of the UAE94 group.

6. Imran Ali Al-Radwan Al-Harthy

He was arrested on 16 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to seven years in prison. His sentence expired on 16 July 2019. Member of the UAE94 group. Authorities have also revoked his Emirati citizenship from his wife, Asmaa Al-Siddiq.

7. Fahad Abdulqader Al-Hajri

He was arrested on 02 March 2013, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to seven years in prison as his sentence expired on 02 March 2020. Member of the UAE94 Group.

8. Ahmed Ghaith Al-Suwaidi

He was arrested on 26 March 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 26 March 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

9. Ahmed Youssef Al-Zaabi

He was arrested on 26 March 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 26 March 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

10. Ibrahim Hassan Al-Marzooki

He was arrested on 26 March 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 26 March 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

11. Dr. Shaheen Abdullah Al-Hosani

He was arrested on 26 March 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 26 March 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

12. Sheikh Mohammed Abdulrazzaq Al-Siddiq

He was arrested on 09 April 2012, and on 02 July 013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 09 April 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

13. Hassan Munif Al-Jabri

He was arrested on 09 April 2012, and on 02 July 013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 09 April 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

14. Hussain Munif Al-Jabri

He was arrested on 09 April 2012, and on 02 July 013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 09 April 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group. 

15. Dr. Hussain Ali Al-Najjar Al-Hammadi

He was arrested on 09 April 2012, and on 02 July 013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 09 April 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

16. Dr. Sultan bin Kayed Al-Qasimi

He was arrested on 20 April 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 20 April 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

17. Salem Abdullah Al-Suwaidi

He was arrested on 30 April 2014, and on 13 June 2016, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 30 April 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

18. Abdulrahman Ahmed Al-Hadidi

He was arrested on 15 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 15 July 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

19. Khalifa Hilal Al-Nuaimi

He was arrested on 16 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 16 July 12022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

20. Dr. Ibrahim Al-Yasi

He was arrested on 16 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 16 July 12022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

21. Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken 

He was arrested on 17 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 17 July 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

22. Salem Al-Shehhi

He was arrested on 17 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 17 July 12022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

23. Essa Al-Sari

He was arrested on 17 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 17 July 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

24. Dr. Essa bin Khalifa Al-Suwaidi

He was arrested on 19 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 19 July 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

25. Jumaa Saeed Al-Falasi

He was arrested on 19 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 19 July 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

26. Saif Mohammed Al-Attar

He was arrested on 20 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 20 July 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

27. Abdulsalam Mohammed Darwish Al-Marzooqi

He was arrested on 24 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 24 July 22022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

28. Dr. Saif Mohammed Al-Ajla

He was arrested on 24 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 24 July 22022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

29. Mosbeh Jumaa Al-Rumaithi

He was arrested on 24 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 24 July 22022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

30. Abdulrahim Mohammed Al-Zarooni

He was arrested on 25 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 25 July 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

31. Saeed Nasser Al-Wahidi

He was arrested on 25 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 25 July 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

32. Ali Al-Manei

He was arrested on 25 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 25 July 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

33. Tariq Hassan Al-Qattan Al-Harmoudi

He was arrested on 25 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 25 July 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

34. Ahmed Saqr Al-Suwaidi

He was arrested on 30 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 30 July 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

35. Ahmed Saif Al-Matari

He was arrested on 30 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 30 July 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

36. Khaled Mohammed Al-Yamahi

He was arrested on 30 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 30 July 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

37. Najeeb Ahmed Al-Amiri

He was arrested on 30 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 30 July 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

38. Fouad Mohammed Al-Hammadi

He was arrested on 31 July 2012, and on 02 July 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and placed on probation for another three years. His sentence expired on 31 July 2022. Member of the UAE94 Group.

Grave violations against prisoners of conscience

On 10 June 2022, GCHR documented in detail the grave human rights violations that prisoners of conscience faced in the UAE, including prisoners of conscience being treated worse than criminals, the inhumane targeting of their families, and the use of unjust laws to keep prisoners of conscience in prisons. The state security apparatus conducted a bargaining process for prisoners of conscience to force them to appear in recordings to present their apologies and express their remorse in exchange for their release, and revoke the citizenship of prisoners of conscience and their family members.

The reform petition that most of them signed, among 133 citizens, men and women from across the Emirati intellectual, legal and political spectrum, was one of the main reasons for targeting the UAE94.

Counselling Centres

Many prisoners of conscience are held after their sentences have been served on the grounds that they allegedly pose a threat to state security and are in need of rehabilitation. Prisoners scheduled for release are transferred from Al-Razeen Prison to the Munasaha (Counselling) Centre, which despite its name signifying tolerance, is simply another building in the same prison which is isolated from the other wings.

According to reliable sources, prisoners of conscience scheduled for release in the coming months have been informed that they will not be released, but will be subject to the so-called counselling programme.

Using overly broad laws to continue detaining activists after serving their sentences

Although they are peaceful prisoners of conscience who have committed no crime, the authorities have used Article 40 of Law No. 1 of 2014 on Combating Terrorism Offences, which includes a vague and broad definition of terrorism, to keep prisoners of conscience who have completed their sentences detained indefinitely. In its first paragraph, this article states the following: "A person has a terrorist risk if he adopts extremist or terrorist ideology so that they are fears that he will commit a terrorist crime." While this article states in its second paragraph that: “If a person appears to pose a terrorist threat, he/she shall be sent to Munasaha (counselling) Centres, by virtue of a judgment issued by the Court and upon request of the prosecution.”

Also, Article (9) of Law (28) of 2019 regarding the establishment of the National Counselling Centre gives the Public Prosecutor the power to subject any prisoners he/she wants to the counselling program.

The process of detaining them after completing their sentences is not transparent and lacks minimum standards of fairness and due process. The Federal Court of Appeal in Abu Dhabi, at the request of the State Security Prosecution, issues referral orders to counseling centers without conducting any hearings or setting a time limit for such detention. All this happens while Article (8) of the Law of the National Counseling Center affirmed that, “It is not permissible to keep the depositor inside the center after the expiry of the period specified in the deposit ruling unless another ruling is issued to continue his deposit.”

There is no doubt that it is not permissible under international law to apply the Law on Combating Terrorism Offences to them nor to hold them under the counselling programme, because it is known to all that they are not terrorists and do not hold deviant or extremist ideologies, and presented their best experiences and efforts to the nation with efficiency and sincerity, in addition to the fact that they practiced peaceful and legitimate activities in the field of human rights.

It is worth noting that the arrests and detentions of prisoners of conscience were mostly arbitrary, without any specific charges being brought, and without any judicial warrant for arrest, house searches and confiscation of electronic devices, in violation of the applicable Criminal Procedural Law in the UAE. These are illegal practices that have become systematic and established by members of the State Security Apparatus.

Human rights lawyer arrested

 

On 14 July 2022, the Emirati authorities arrested human rights lawyer Asim Ghafoor, aboard member of the NGO Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), at Dubai airport, while he was on his way to Istanbul to attend a wedding.

He was taken to a detention centre in Abu Dhabi, after the UAE authorities announced that he had been sentenced in absentia by the Abu Dhabi Money Laundering Court to three years in prison and a fine of three million UAE dirhams (US$816,000) after he was convicted of two charges of alleged tax evasion and money laundering.

It is worth noting that Ghafoor had no knowledge of the proceedings of this case and the verdict, which indicates, according to local observers, that he was targeted because of his work in the field of human rights, and because he is the lawyer of the late journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in 2018 by the Saudi authorities, who have close cooperation with the Emirati authorities.

Recommendations

Once again, GCHR calls on the international community, especially governments that have influence in the Emirates, such as the United States of America, Great Britain, Canada and the members of the European Union, in addition to all United Nations mechanisms including the concerned special rapporteurs, to intervene immediately to seek an end to these grave violations and to visit all detainees listed in this appeal, to ensure their health and physical safety, and obtain their immediate and unconditional release.

GCHR also calls on the authorities in the UAE to:

  1. Close so-called counselling prison wings or centres in the UAE and release all detainees who are being held past the end of their sentences, in flagrant violation of their civil and human rights and without legal basis;
  2. Immediately and unconditionally release human rights lawyer Asim Ghafoor; and
  3. Repeal the text of Article 40 of the Anti-Terrorism Law No. 7 of 2014, which allows people to be detained without charge or court rulings and for indefinite periods.

Act now!

Please circulate widely the news about the condition of all prisoners of conscience, including those who are still in detention despite the expiration of their sentences, and tweet the appeal to the UN Special Procedures to request their intervention.

Contact Information:          

- United Nations Special Rapporteurs: @UN_SPExperts

- UAE government:

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the State: @MohamedBinZayed  

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE: @HHShkMohd

- Please also contact your country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or your country's embassy or consulate in the UAE. Check out the list here and then find it on Twitter:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_diplomatic_missions_in_the_United_Arab_Emirates