Report reveals increase in reprisals against human rights activists

UN: UAE authorities retaliated against three HRDs for cooperating with us

20 Oct 2021
UN: UAE authorities retaliated against three HRDs for cooperating with us

A new report by the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General (UN) for Human Rights, Ilze Brands Kehris, revealed on Wednesday at the 48th regular session of the Human Rights Council the increase in intimidation and reprisals by governments against individuals who cooperate with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights.

The 87-page report documents reprisals and intimidation attempts against 240 members of civil society, activists and journalists in 45 countries this year untill April 31, simply for cooperating with the UN.

Kehris said the report showed that "the scale and severity of cases of intimidation and reprisals continue and are occurring at an unacceptably high rate." She pointed out that of the 240 people named in the report, more than 100 were not named for their protection.

According to the report, UAE authorities perpetrated acts of revenge and intimidation against three Emirati activists for their cooperation with the UN. The first case documented in the report is that of Emirati activist Ahmed Mansour, who has been mentioned in previous reports from 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2014.

The report states that Mansour has been subjected to intimidation and reprisals, torture and has been held in solitary confinement since 2018 for his cooperation with the human rights mechanisms of UN. The Special Procedures mandate holders have expressed concern that Mr Mansour is among "three human rights defenders (HRDs) serving a 10-year prison sentence in the UAE and being ill-treated in conditions that may amount to torture, and have called on the authorities to release them.

As for the second and third cases, Maryam Suleiman Al-Balushi and Amina Al-Abdouli, also referred to in previous reports in 2020 and 2019.

The report noted that Maryam and Amina were arrested in 2015 and sentenced to five years in prison. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was informed that their situation deteriorated after the information was sent to UN.

The report indicates that since their arrest, Maryam and Amina have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment while in detention and have not received medical care.

In July 2019, Amina and Maryam appeared again before the State Security Prosecutor and new charges were brought against them for trying to draw attention to what was being done to them.

In November 2020, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that the detention of Ms. Al-Balushi and Ms. Al-Abdouli was arbitrary, demanded their immediate release and called on the government to compensate them. (A/HRC/WGAD/2020/61, paras. 97-99).

The Working Group noted that their "persecution on the basis of new allegations appeared to amount to clear retaliation for the request for assistance by the international community" (para. 77), and noted the allegations that the two women had been "subjected to reprisals, including ill-treatment that appeared to be gender-specific, for bringing their detention conditions to the attention of the proceedings" (para. 94).

The report pointed out that while Amina and Maryam served their sentences in November 2020, they have not yet been released. There are claims that they were transferred out of Al-Wathba prison in 2020, but their current whereabouts are unknown.