United Arab Emirates authorities retaliated against the detained human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor after July 2021, when regional media published a prison letter he wrote detailing his mistreatment in detention and flagrantly unfair trial, Human Rights Watch and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) said today.
An informed source told the groups that following the letter’s publication, UAE authorities moved Mansoor to a smaller and more isolated cell, denied him access to critical medical care, and confiscated his reading glasses. Since detaining him in March 2017, UAE authorities have held Mansoor largely incommunicado, isolated him from other prisoners, and denied him a bed and mattress. The United Nations, as well as the UAE’s allies, the United States, United Kingdom, and others, should publicly and privately call for an immediate end to Mansoor’s isolation and for his unconditional release.
“Allies have been helping to promote the UAE’s narrative of a tolerant and culturally open country while ignoring rampant abuses, including the legal railroading and ghastly mistreatment of one of its most respected citizens,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The UN Human Rights Council should not keep silent while its member, the UAE, flagrantly violates human rights standards and blocks UN and other international and independent monitors from accessing its prisons.”
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The UAE’s powerful State Security Apparatus (SSA) has violated Mansoor’s rights for more than 10 years with arbitrary arrest and detention, death threats, physical assault, government surveillance, and inhumane treatment in custody, the organizations said. He has been denied his rights as a prisoner under international human rights law, including the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
By holding Mansoor in isolation for nearly four years, which amounts to torture, UAE authorities are violating their obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the UAE ratified in 2012.
Mansoor is not the only victim of the UAE authorities’ complete intolerance of dissent. Since 2011, when the UAE began a sustained assault on freedom of expression and association, Human Rights Watch and GCHR have repeatedly documented serious allegations of abuse at the hands of state security forces against dissidents and activists who have spoken up about human rights issues.
Read also: Ahmed Mansour.. A Believer in Freedom in A Time of Oppression
The most egregious abuses are arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and torture. The UAE has arrested and prosecuted scores of lawyers, judges, teachers, and activists and shut down key civil society associations and the offices of foreign organizations promoting democratic rights, effectively crushing any space for dissent.
Governments have a human rights responsibility to avoid contributing to UAE authorities’ efforts to whitewash its abuses, including its cruel and unjust imprisonment of Mansoor and others detained solely for exercising their right to free expression. As countries showcase their pavilions at the Dubai Expo, they should advocate for the UAE to unconditionally release all those unjustly detained for exercising their right to free expression, Human Rights Watch and GCHR said.
It is noteworthy that Mansour, the last human rights defender in the UAE, has been detained since 2017, in the notorious Al-Sadr prison near Abu Dhabi, where he is serving a 10-year prison sentence issued by the State Security Chamber of the Abu Dhabi Court of Appeal on May 29, 2018, after a grossly unfair trial on trumped-up charges.
Since then, Mansour has been held in solitary confinement, forbidden from any contact with the outside world or other prisoners, and deprived of the most basic necessities, and on July 16, news websites published a letter written by him with his handwriting, detailing the grave violations committed by SSA against him.