UAE Consistently Fails to Release Political...
Research by MENA Rights Group has revealed that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities are using Munasaha centres, or ‘counselling’ centres, to detain critics and activists de facto indefinitely, on broad and vague legal grounds.
The UAE consistently fails to release political prisoners past their release dates. Instead of being released upon the completion of their sentence, many prisoners are transferred without a legal basis to so-called counselling centres inside prison facilities.
Officially used to “guide and reform” those convicted of terrorist offences, these counselling centres are increasingly employed as a political tool to silence dissent, under the pretext that political prisoners pose a “threat” to the state and society. Those who have been transferred to such centres have not been charged with any offence, therefore they are not able to appeal a judicial verdict. This practice allows for the government to hold prisoners indefinitely without due process in order to repress human rights activists’ freedom of expression in the UAE.
MENA Rights Group documented the cases of 11 individuals who were originally sentenced under security-related legislation in reprisal for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, opinion, and association. Each individual completed his prison sentence and was due to be released before being transferred to, and detained at, the Munasaha centre.
According to local sources, all Munasaha centres currently in existence in the UAE are located within prison complexes. There is no evidence that the facilities and infrastructure of Munasaha centres differ from the prisons in which they are situated, nor that detainees are provided with effective counselling or access to rehabilitation programmes. Instead, detainees are occasionally subjected to the broadcasting of national songs or encouraged to record a confession and / or a renouncement of ideology.
Detention periods in Munasaha centres are ambiguous, with no maximum duration of detention defined in the law. Release is by court order, which is only granted after the prosecution submits a report to the court stating that it no longer deems that the detainee is likely to commit a terrorist offence. As a result, several detainees having spent over three years at Al Razeen Munasaha centre.
Furthermore, the individuals being detained at Munasaha centres are being denied the opportunity to present a defence, obtain legal representation and, in all likelihood, appeal, in violation of their rights to due process and access to legal counsel.
The UAE’s use of indefinite detention has been condemned internationally by human rights groups, who have increasingly put pressure on the Emirati government to end such practises. The continued detention of political activists beyond their original sentence breaches both international human rights norms as well as the UAE’s own laws regarding fair trials and due process.