Criticizes continued violation of freedom of expression & mistreatment of detainees

Report: Dozens of activists and academics are serving long prison sentences

13 Jan 2022
Report: Dozens of activists and academics are serving long prison sentences

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized the human rights situation in the UAE, noting that authorities continue to violate freedom of expression and arbitrarily detain and mistreat people.

The organization's 2022 annual report, which assesses a range of human rights issues in countries around the world, said that numerous activists, academics and lawyers are serving lengthy prison sentences in UAE jails after being convicted in unfair trials on vague and broad charges that violate their rights to freedom of expression and association.

The report added that in 2021, new details emerged about Abu Dhabi's persecution of human rights activist Ahmed Mansour, which revealed grave violations of his rights and demonstrated the absolute authority of the State Security Apparatus (SSA) to commit violations.In July, a private letter he wrote detailing his mistreatment in detention leaked to regional media, sparking renewed concern over his well-being and possible retaliation.

"Prominent academic Nasser bin-Ghaith, serving 10 years on charges stemming from criticism of UAE and Egyptian authorities, and university professor and human rights lawyer Mohammed al-Roken, serving 10 years following his conviction alongside 68 other people in the grossly unfair "UAE 94" trial, also remained in prison", said HRW

The report also revealed that the authorities continued to hold Khalifa al-Rabea, an Emirati who completed his sentence on state security charges July 2018. Al-Rabea was convicted in 2014 based on his ties to al-Islah, which was a legally registered Islamist political movement that the UAE later banned in 2014 as a "terrorist entity." Authorities arbitrarily kept him behind bars for "counselling," according to Emirati activists. Authorities also held past their sentences four Emirati dissidents convicted in the UAE 94 trial and who completed their sentences in 2019 and 2020 and two women prisoners who completed their sentences in 2020.

The report emphasized that detainees in cases purportedly related to state security, were at serious risk of arbitrary and incommunicado detention, torture and ill-treatment, prolonged solitary confinement, and denial of access to legal assistance. Forced confessions were used as evidence in trial proceedings, and prisoners complained of overcrowded and unhygienic conditions and inadequate medical care.

Rights Watch explained that the detainees complained of overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and insufficient medical care, noting in its report that Abu Dhabi prevented representatives of international human rights organizations and UN experts from conducting research inside the country and visiting prisons and detention centers to verify these complaints.

The report pointed out that In 2021,  UAE authorities continued to invest in a "soft power" strategy aimed at painting the country as a progressive, tolerant, and rights-respecting nation, yet the UAE's intolerance of criticism was reflected in the continued unjust imprisonment of leading human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor and others.

The report said that in 2021, the UAE Interior Ministry official, Ahmed Al Raisi ran as a candidate for president of Interpol and won, an appointment that jeopardizes the global police organization's commitment to its human rights obligations given the UAE state security apparatus' long record of multiple abuses.

The report also noted that the The UAE continued to develop its surveillance capabilities, both online and through mass facial recognition surveillance in public spaces. New reports emerged of UAE authorities misusing Israeli spyware to gain access to the private and encrypted communications of journalists, activists, and world leaders.

It is noteworthy that the report dealt with other aspects related to violations of the rights of expatriate workers, the forced deportation of some nationalities, and the role of the UAE in participating in armed conflicts in the region such as Yemen and Libya.