United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities continued to invest in a “soft power” strategy aimed at painting the country as a progressive, tolerant, and rights-respecting nation, yet its fierce intolerance of criticism, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
In its annual World Report 2021, HRW pointed to the continued unjust imprisonment of leading human rights activist Ahmed Mansour, academic Nasser bin Ghaith, and other many activists and dissidents, some of whom had completed their sentences as long as three years ago and remain detained without a clear legal basis.
The report denounced the conditions of freedom of expression, noting that Hundreds of activists, academics, and lawyers are serving lengthy sentences in UAE prisons, in many cases following unfair trials on vague and broad charges that violate their rights to free expression and association.
The report revealed the deplorable and unsanitary conditions of Emirati prisons, in which “Prisons across the UAE held detainees in dismal and unhygienic conditions, where overcrowding and lack of adequate medical care is widespread. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, detainees and prison staff were at heightened risk of contracting the virus.”
HRW revealed that The UAE blocked representatives of international human rights organizations and UN experts from conducting in-country research and visiting prisons and detention facilities.
HRW's report, issued last January, examines human rights practices and trends in nearly 100 countries, including the UAE.