United Arab Emirates: On International Human Rights Day, Ahmed Mansoor given honorary citizenship of Lyon


On 10 December 2022, International Human Rights Day, imprisoned Emirati human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor was given honorary citizenship of the city of Lyon in France. At an impressive ceremony at Lyon City Hall, Khalid Ibrahim, Executive Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), of which Mansoor is an Advisory Board member, accepted the certificate of honorary citizenship from Lyon’s Mayor, Grégory Doucet. Doucet commended Mansoor for his excellent human rights work in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he is serving 10 years in prison.

In his speech at the ceremony, Ibrahim said, "On behalf of my colleague Ahmed Mansoor, I have the pleasure of accepting the honorary citizenship of the beautiful city of Lyon." He added, "It's significant that it is in the city of Lyon, that hosts INTERPOL - whose president Major General Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi was involved in the torture of my colleague Ahmed - that he is getting honorary citizenship." He concluded by saying on behalf of Mansoor, "We will continue our human rights work. We will not surrender. Thank you to the people of Lyon and thanks to the Mayor of Lyon." Mayor Doucet had protested that it was shameful that a man accused of torture had been elected as head of INTERPOL.

Mansoor was arrested on 20 March 2017 and sentenced to 10 years in prison in May 2018 after being unfairly convicted of the offence of “insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols including its leaders” in reprisal for his peaceful human rights activism, including through his posts on social media. He is the recipient of the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

Since his arrest, Mansoor has been held in solitary confinement in Al-Sadr prison in Abu Dhabi, where he is being denied a bed, mattress or pillow, as well as being deprived of adequate medical care, exercise and sunshine, which puts his life at risk. Reliable local sources confirmed that his health continues to deteriorate, and he suffers from high blood pressure and general fatigue.

Despite repeated calls by human rights organisations and international mechanisms over the past years, the UAE authorities have not allowed international experts or independent monitors access to Mansoor in prison.

Lyon hosts the headquarters of the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) whose president was elected in 2021 despite the compelling evidence that confirms Al-Raisi’s role in serious violations against detained human rights defenders and other prisoners of conscience, such as Mansoor. On 18 January 2022, French lawyer William Bourdon filed a torture complaint in France against Al-Raisi on behalf of GCHR and Mansoor under the principle of universal jurisdiction. When Al-Raisi was in Lyon in March 2022, Bourdon’s office sent information to the Prosecutor's Office, which opened an inquiry through its unit for crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. On 18 March 2022, GCHR’s Executive Director testified about Al-Raisi’s crimes, and the accusations against him were sufficient to lift Al-Raisi’s diplomatic immunity.

In the same ceremony, Ali and Kiana Rahmani accepted the honorary citizenship of Lyon on behalf of their mother, prominent human rights defender Narges Mohammadi, who is unjustly imprisoned in Iran, serving numerous sentences for her human rights work. She recently wrote that she has “been arrested 13 times and sentenced to 34 years in prison and 154 lashes in 5 courts,” adding, “So far, I have served seven years in prison and I have to endure another eight and a half years in prison.” Mohammadi has not seen her children, who live in France, since 2015, and they cannot speak to each other on the phone while she is in prison.