United Arab Emirates: UAE: Authorities Continue to Target Human Rights Defenders


State Security forces in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) continue to target on-line activists and human rights defenders who draw attention to the human rights situation in the country, according to the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR).

For instance, human rights defender and online activist Osama Al-Najjar, who is currently detained on several charges related to his human rights activities and his alleged involvement with political group Al-Islah, attended his second trial hearing on 14 October 2014 at the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi. Court at that time postponed his hearing to 28 October 2014.

During court proceedings on 28 October, the public prosecutor demanded that Al-Najjar be given the harshest sentence while the defence lawyers demanded that their client be acquitted of the charges against him. Al-Najjar presented 13 points indicating how imprecise and misleading the investigation has been when dealing with his case. For example, his home address was incorrect and it was stated that he was unemployed while in fact he was working. The court adjourned the hearing until 25 November 2014.

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, as well as instigating hatred against the State 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.

Meanwhile, the blogger and prominent human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor has been continuously targeted by State Security forces. The latest harassment towards Mansoor was on 28 October 2014 when his Twitter account, in which he publishes his personal thoughts and views, was hacked. He has not been able to reclaim it so far. Reliable sources believe the group of hackers that executed the hacking operation may be linked with Emirati state security.

Mansoor, a member of the GCHR Advisory Board, was one of the initiators of the 3 March 2011 petition that called for democratic reform of the UAE Parliament. He was subsequently jailed that year in what became widely known as the UAE5 case.

GCHR is further concerned about the new Anti-Terrorism Law in the UAE that was approved by President Sheikh Khalifa in late August 2014. Under the new legislation “Federal Law no 7 of the year 2014 on Combatting Terrorism Crimes”, those convicted will face capital punishment, life imprisonment and fines of up to Dh100 million. GCHR fears that the legislation will be used as a tool to target, imprison, harass, intimidate and impede the work of human rights defenders in the UAE.

The GCHR expresses concern at the ongoing trial of Osama Al-Najjar and the harassment of Ahmed Mansoor and regards these actions as evidence of the on-going trend 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 Osama Al-Najjar’s physical and psychological integrity and security while he remains in detention;
  3. Ensure that the trial against Osama Al-Najjar will comply with internationally recognized fair trial procedures;
  4. Ensure that the Federal Law no 7 of the year 2014 on Combatting Terrorism Crimes is not used to crack down on the legitimate activities of peaceful human rights defenders;
  5. Guarantee in all circumstances that on-line activists and all human rights defenders in the UAE such as Ahmed Mansoor 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 the UAE 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.”