: UAE- Human rights defender arrested after interview with CNN



On 11 December 2013, Emirati human rights defender Obaid Al-Zaabi gave an interview to CNN during which he commented on the case of a young American, Shezanne Cassim, jailed in the UAE for making a parody video with his friends. The video can be found here: http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/29/world/meast/uae-american-imprisoned/

According to information received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), he was arrested in Abu Dhabi immediately after CNN aired this video while he was out by himself, believed to be around midnight or in the early hours of 12 December 2013.

Reports suggested that the arrest is related to his interview on CNN. He was arrested before on 2 July 2013 and released on bail on 4 August 2013. Although he called his family twice since being arrested, his whereabouts are unknown and there is fear for his health as he suffers from advanced symptoms of arthritis.

His first arrest was also related to his supportive posts on Twitter during the trial of a group of human rights defenders and activists collectively known as the "UAE 94".

Al-Zaabi is a human rights defender who uses social media, in particular Twitter, to express his views in support of human rights and political reforms.

The GCHR believes that the arrest of Al-Zaabi is a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression in the UAE and forms part of an on-going trend of targeting human rights defenders in order to stop their peaceful and legitimate human rights work.

The GCHR urge the UAE authorities to: 

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Obaid Al-Zaabi;
  2. Immediately ensure that Obaid Al-Zaabi has an unfettered access to his lawyer, medical care and family;
  3. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Obaid Al-Zaabi while he remains in detention;
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in UAE are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment. 

The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (b and c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”, and to Article 12 (1 and 2): “(1) Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (2) The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”