Telling a cross-party fact-finding panel of UK parliamentarians

Jenz: The UAE is the most police state in the Middle East

12 Nov 2021
Jenz: The UAE is the most police state in the Middle East

The UAE and Iran country coordinator at Amnesty International, Oscar Jenz, said that the UAE is the most police-state in the Middle East. He pointed out that they had the most political prisoners compared to the population.

During his testimony before a cross-party fact-finding panel of UK parliamentarians, Jenz added that the UAE government systematically criminalizes free speech and punishes it and any opposition with prison sentences of up to 10 years. If the government decides to bring charges related to national security, the prison sentence is extended to life.

According to Jenz, there is no free media in the UAE. Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have not been allowed to visit the country for 5 to 6 years, and prisoners, whether foreigners or nationals, are often held in solitary confinement for long periods of time, isolated from their lawyers and family members, and there are no human rights defenders left in the country.

Referring to the media blackout surrounding the trials, Jenz said it was a "black hole," a description also used by Hiba Zayadin, a researcher at Human Rights Watch: "We just do not know what happens to people when they go to trial or when they go to prison. This is the legal state in which the state operates.

Jenz expressed concern about the criminal justice system in Abu Dhabi, saying, "In 2012, we saw the launch of what is now called a secure nation-state was introduced, so every part of the justice system is politicized."

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Jenz pointed out that the best example of this is the mass trial in the "UAE 94" case. In 2012, the authorities arrested all the signatories of the "March 3 Petition," which called for democratic reforms in the UAE.

Jenz explained that the police stormed the homes of the petition signatories without judicial orders or legal guarantees. They stormed their houses at night, beat them and put them in jail. None of them could communicate with their lawyers or families for more than 5 months.

Jenz described this as enforced disappearance, amounting to state-sponsored kidnapping, and that this was an integral part of the trial, when 94 individuals were subjected to this, explaining that many of these people claimed that they had been tortured while in detention, which is a credible allegation.

Jenz cited the most striking violations the "UAE 94" defendants were subjected to, such as prolonged incommunicado detention, denial of basic access to water or medical care, and denial of lawyers to challenge the government's evidence or any suspicion of coerced or fabricated confessions, some trials lasting only a few hours.

Jenz said the U.S. attorney for civil rights called these cases "rife with legal and procedural flaws from the outset and in flagrant violation of international due process standards." Still, 69 people were sentenced to up to 15 years in prison in a mass trial in 2013.

Jenz also expressed concern about the flaws in the criminal justice system, saying, "What is notorious in the judicial processes are the non-application of arrest warrants, disappearances, i.e. state-sanctioned kidnappings, and the fact that defense lawyers are not given access to defendants, especially when they are held incommunicado."

Jenz pointed to the systematic use of arbitrary detention and indefinite detention even after the sentence has expired, noting that this was the case with some defendants in "UAE 94," where many have already served their sentences but have not been released.

He pointed out that the UAE authorities use vaguely worded provisions that allow them to detain people because national security laws allow for the indefinite detention of people who hold "extremist or politically dangerous" ideas.

It is noteworthy that the British Fact-Finding is concerning the rights of British women in the UAE. The report has found that the UAE's human rights record - particularly regarding women - is poor and needs to be urgently addressed.

The panel consisted of Sir Peter Bottomley MP (Chair), Debbie Abrahams MP, and Baroness Helena Kennedy QC. It was assisted by international human rights barristers, Rhys Davies and Ben Keith.