United Arab Emirates: Update: UAE: Trial of human rights defender Osama Al-Najjar continues

15.10.14

On 14 October 2014, the second hearing of the trial of human rights defender and on-line activist Osama Al-Najjar took place at the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Among other things, he was charged with using Twitter to spread news about torture in detention, including of his father. The Court postponed the hearing to 28 October 2014, when it will hear pleadings from both the defense and the prosecution. This would not allow the defense sufficient time to respond to what will be said by the prosecution in court; also there is no confirmation that Al-Najjar has received the case file in order to prepare the defense.

During the hearing Al-Najjar asked for permission to talk saying: “I have not received the file of the case as yet, I want to confront the affirmation witnesses, as I need to have two witnesses who have been subjected to torture, to prove and stress that torture is a fact and not dissemination of rumors.”

Following the hearing, Al-Najjar refused to get into the police car before talking with his lawyer, and although his request was once again rejected, due to his insistence, the police were forced to respond to his request. Al-Najjar met his lawyer in the corridor outside the courtroom, handcuffed and shackled. The conversation lasted three minutes in the middle of a group of police officers and security.

Osama Al-Najjar was violently arrested on 17 March 2014 and not taken to court until 23 September. He was charged with 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 prisoners in the group known as the UAE94, who is currently serving an 11-year jail term for his human rights activities. For further information please see previous Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) appeals, including the one issued on 26 September 2014: http://gc4hr.org/news/view/762.

The GCHR expresses concern at the ongoing trial of Osama Al-Najjar and regards it as part of repeated attempts by authorities in the UAE to restrict the rights to freedom of opinion and expression in the country.

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.”