A brief look at human rights violations (part 19): the United Arab Emirates
A brief look at human rights violations (part...
In recent times, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has projected itself as the epicentre of wealth and luxury, with Dubai thrown to the forefront as a new global centre of commerce. However, beneath the glitz and glamour lies a much darker reality in which freedom of speech and freedom of the press have all but been expelled.
In this report we took a brief look at some human rights violations in UAE.
- The UAE has issued a federal law to establish a National Human Rights Institution. According to state news agency Wam, the institution aims to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms based on the provisions of the UAE Constitution, laws and legislation in force in the country, as well as relevant international conventions.
The announcement came as more than 200 political prisoners are still held in UAE jails for their peaceful and legitimate human rights advocacy. In numerous instances, the UAE government has tortured human rights defenders and activists in custody and has denied their citizens the right to a speedy trial and access to counsel during official investigations.
- According to a new report by the International Campaign for Freedom (ICF UAE), political prisoners in the United Arab Emirates, in recent times, the United Arab Emirates has projected itself as the epicentre of wealth and luxury, with Dubai thrown to the forefront as a new global centre of commerce. However, beneath the glitz and glamour lies a much darker reality in which freedom of speech and freedom of the press have all but been expelled.
Though the UAE Constitution of 1971 grants freedom of opinion to all citizens, the decades that have followed have seen the introduction of new measures aimed at controlling and eliminating any criticism of the state. in light of the democratic uprisings that occurred in the Arab Spring of 2011, the UAE has adapted to evolving means of dissent by introducing the 2012 Cybercrime Law that gives the regime carte blanche in arresting those who advocate for reform or criticise the government online. This has led to widespread fear and use of arbitrary arrest, forced disappearances, unfair trials, torture and deportation. Today, it is estimated that the UAE has detained more than 200 political prisoners - although the numbers may be more1. Those detained in trials such as the UAE 94 in 2013, as well as the arrest of Ahmed Mansoor and Dr Nasser Bin Ghaith in 2017, have endured torture, solitary confinement, no access to lawyers, and threats to their family’s wellbeing.
The Cybercrime Law, then, turns to penalise anyone who dares criticise the state, underlining that whoever publishes news, information, or cartoon drawings that ‘endanger the national security and the higher interests of the State’ will face detention. Article 29, meanwhile, penalises anyone who publishes ‘information, news, statements or rumours on a website or any computer network or information technology means with intent to make sarcasm or damage the reputation, prestige or stature of the State or any of its institutions or its president, vice-president, any of the rulers of the Emirates, their crown princes, or the deputy rulers of the Emirates, the State flag, the national peace, its logo, national anthem or any of its symbols.” The severity of the law demonstrates how the state now has the ability to sentence anyone who is part of an online group or organisation that they deem unlawful, as well as having the right to imprison anyone who criticises, in any way, the state or their allies. A pertinent example is that of Ahmed Mansoor.
- According to the Middle East Monitor, the UAE sentenced a Syrian human rights activist to ten years in prison on charges of terrorism and insulting the prestige of the state. Al-Nahhas was charged by the Public Prosecutor with alleged membership in a terrorist organisation due to his contact with the Switzerland-based Al-Karama Organisation for Human Rights, as well as being charged for insulting the prestige of the state by sending an email to the French embassy requesting political asylum. Following his arrest at the end of 2019, he was forcibly disappeared by Emirati authorities until his trial began in January 2021, when he was sent to Al-Wathba prison. There he was allowed to speak to his family over the phone for the first time since his disappearance, but after he revealed that he was threatened and tortured during his time in detention, the Emirati authorities forbade him from speaking again.
Human rights advocates around the world have spoken out, voicing their concerns regarding Al-Nahhas' treatment at the hands of Emirati authorities and the charges his sentencing is based on.
Over the years, the UAE has led a campaign of suppression against human rights activists and aid workers, arresting and forcibly disappearing them before subjecting them to long sentences and torture in detention.