Human rights defenders in UAE prisons

Why are the signatories of the March 3 petition considered human rights defenders?

30 Jun 2021
Why are the signatories of the March 3 petition considered human rights defenders?

On 30 June 2018, the United Nations declared for the first time the International Day of Parliamentary Action to recognize the important role of parliaments. This date was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the founding of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 1889.

Although the occasion did not receive the necessary media coverage, the United Nations gave it priority, calling parliaments "one of the pillars of democracy and an important defender of human rights".

The Emirates News Agency covers the UAE's celebration of International Parliament Day every year on this day, while authorities detain 29 academics and human rights activists in jails for signing a petition calling for the development of parliamentary work in the Emirates and for the Federal National Council to be given powers of legislative control so that Emiratis can fully elect council members.

Although this petition, known in the media as the "March 3 Petition," is not the first in Emirati history, it is the most important to date. The reason for this is the behavior of the Emirati regime, which suppressed and retaliated against the signatories, which was not a common behavior and is well remembered by the citizens, until it became an experience that is the worst in their history.

The behavior of the Emirati regime was strange, especially since the petition was drafted with high diplomacy and did not question the legitimacy of the rulers of the state, but made a simple demand, namely to grant the Federal National Council (Parliament) the appropriate powers of a legislative and supervisory body.

However, the reaction of the Emirati regime to this peaceful, civilized demand was violent and barbaric, as only a month after the petition was sent, the series of revenge acts against those responsible for writing the petition and the signatories, such as Ahmed Mansour and Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith, and their prosecution for insulting state symbols began.

The authorities continued an organized smear campaign against the signatories, forcing some of them to withdraw from the petition. The retaliation against them went so far that the authorities revoked the Emirati citizenship of three signatories and prosecuted them along with others for "subversion of the regime." To date, UAE authorities have arrested 29 political human rights defenders in the UAE on charges of subversion of the regime.

The 29 detainees are considered human rights defenders under United Nations standards, which define them as "individuals, groups of individuals, or organizations that legitimately promote human rights and democracy."

According to Salil Shetty, former secretary-general of Amnesty International, this includes "anyone who stands up against injustice, fights corruption and works to strengthen democracy."

For many years, a large number of the petition signatories were seen politically as part of a political party and demonized in the media, and confusion reigned in their description in the media. While the Emirati media refers to them as "terrorists", their counterparts in the West refer to them as "activists", using their professional titles.

But the truth, they were primarily defenders of human rights, their right to vote, their right to democratic representation, and their right to dignity.

As human rights organizations, we must deal with these cases according to their legal description, without fear of political considerations, which usually affect the human rights aspect.

Today, the UAE authorities are arresting not only political or academic activists, but also 29 human rights defenders for signing a petition calling for the promotion of democracy and human rights - another violation among many others in this field.

On this occasion, the Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre (EDAC) announces that the following names are designated as "human rights defenders" because they defend the political rights of Emiratis:

1. Ahmed Mansour Al Shehhi

2. Dr. Ibrahim Ismail Al Yasi

3. Ahmed Al-Tabour Al-Nuaimi

4. Ahmed Saqr Al-Suwaidi

5. Dr. Ahmed Youssef Al Zaabi

6. Alaa Muhammad Al-Siddiq - citizenship revoked

7. Juma bin Darwish Al Falasi

8. Hamad Hassan Ruqait Al Ali

9. Rashid Khalfan Obaid bin Sabt

10. Salem Musa Al Tunaiji

11. Dr. Sultan bin Kayed Al Qasimi

12. Dr. Saif Mohammed Al-Ajla

13. Saif Muhammad Al-Attar

14. Dr. Shaheen Abdullah Al Hosani - Ccitizenship revoked

15. Abdul Rahman Ahmed Al Hadidi

16. Abdul Rahim Abdullah Naqi

17. Abdullah Abdul Qadir Al-Hajri

18. Dr. Ali Al Hammadi

19. Ali Saeed Al Kindi

20. Issa Moadad Al-Sirri

21. Muhammad Abdul Razzaq Al-Siddiq - citizenship revoked

22. Dr. Mohammed Abdullah Al-Roken

23. Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Mansoori

24. Mosbeh Al Rumaithi

25. Dr. Hadef Al Owais

26. Khalifa Rabia - electronic signature

27. Dr. Nasser Ahmed bin Ghaith - electronic signature

28. Khalifa Hilal Al Nuaimi - electronic signature

29. Saleh Hassan Al-Dhafiri - electronic signature

30. Khaled Fadl Ahmed - electronic signature