United Arab Emirates: UAE: Postponement of trial of human rights defender Osama Al-Najjar

26.09.14

On September 23 2014, the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi heard the case of human rights defender and on-line activist Osama Al-Najjar. The Court postponed the hearing to 14 October 2014, when it will give its final judgement against which there is no appeal.

This was the first time that Osama Al-Najjar appeared before the Court despite the fact that he was violently arrested over six months ago.  Only two of his family members were allowed to attend and the State Security forces reportedly, selected which media representative’s could be present in the courtroom. The charges against him include belonging to Al-Islah, offending the State via Twitter, instigating hatred against the State via Twitter and spreading lies about the torture of his father, Hossain Al-Najjar one of the UAE94 who is currently serving an 11-year jail term for his human rights activities.  

On 17 March 2014, Osama Al-Najjar was violently arrested as he made his way home from visiting his father in Arazeen jail. His house was searched and some personal belongings confiscated. He was detained in a secret location where he was subjected to torture and placed in solitary confinement before being transferred to Alwathba jail in Abu Dhabi. He was denied access to a lawyer and was not permitted to see the Prosecution’s case against him. For further information please see previous Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) appeals issued on 20 March 2014 following his arrest (http://gc4hr.org/news/view/610) and on 4 April 2014 following news of his torture (http://gc4hr.org/news/view/620).

The arrest and trial of Osama Al-Najjar forms part of a recognised trend, as on-line activists in the UAE continue to be targeted by State Security forces. The GCHR expresses serious concern at his detention, torture and on-going trial and fears for his physical and psychological health. The GCHR believes that his treatment by State authorities is solely related to his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities. 

  The GCHR urges the authorities in the UAE to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Osama Al-Najjar and release him from detention;
  2. Guarantee his physical and psychological integrity and security while he remains in detention;
  3. Ensure that the trial against him will comply with internationally recognised fair trial procedures;
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that on-line activists and 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.