United Arab Emirates: UAE- Human rights defender Mohammed Salim Al-Zumur sentenced to 3 years in prison


On 25 December 2013, the Federal Court in Abu Dhabi sentenced human rights defender, Mohammed Salim Al-Zumer, to 3 years in prison and a fine of 500,000 Emirati Dirham (equal to136,000 $). The court convicted him of insulting both the head of state and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, by publishing that the state has paid the private company, Blackwater, to establish a mercenary army to suppress freedoms, and damaging the reputation of the state security apparatus by saying that they torture detainees. The court acquitted him of the charge of being a member of Islah Reform and Social Association. It is worth mentioning that the defender has made grave allegations of torture and ill-treatment during his detention that were never investigated by the court.

The court also sentenced in absentia, human rights defender, Abdulrahman Omar Bajubair, who is residing outside of the UAE, to 5 years in prison. He is convicted of charges that include the management of a Web Site called "Motazamenon" ie.” In Solidarity”, offending the honour of the judges of the Federal Court, and publicly breaching the prestige of the court. The court found human rights defender, Khalifa Al-Nuaimi one of the UAE 94 (currently serving a ten year sentence) not guilty of these charges.

At approximately 9pm on 5 December 2012 Mohammed Salim Al-Zumur and his friend were arrested on the street by plain-clothes security officials who took their personal belongings including mobile phones and ipads.  The Cyber Crime Law is also being applied arbitrarily in the case of the aforementioned three human rights defenders who have been accused of making videos defaming the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. 

The Cyber Crimes Law, adopted in late 2012, has been widely criticized for providing the authorities with a legal basis for limiting freedom of expression and information. The GCHR issued an appeal on 23 May 2013 on the misuse of the legislation (https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/419).

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) believes that the Cyber Crimes Law is being used to target human rights defenders and on-line activists, posing a serious threat to freedom of expression in the United Arab Emirates. The GCHR expresses concern that authorities in UAE are using all their efforts to stop the peaceful and legitimate activities of human rights defenders in contravention of international human rights law. 

The GCHR urges the authorities in the UAE to: 

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Mohammed Al-Zumer and all those detained on arbitrary charges related to freedom of opinion and expression;
  2. Open immediately a full and impartial criminal investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment of Mohammed Al-Zumer;  
  3. Guarantee the physical and psychological security and integrity of Mohammed Al-Zumer while he remains in detention;
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the UAE are able to carry out their legitimate human rights 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, recognises 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.”