The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) said that the UAE authorities’ arrest of the Jordanian citizen Ahmed Majed Ahmed Al-Atoum is considered arbitrary detention and is not based on any legal basis, calling on the UAE authorities to release him immediately and compensate him for the damages he sustained.
UNWGAD added in Opinion No. 53/2021 regarding the case of Al-Atoum, that on May 14, 2020, UAE’s State Security Apparatus (SSA) individuals wearing masks arrested Al-Atoum when he was buying bread in a bakery in Abu Dhabi, without receiving an arrest warrant or providing him with the reasons for his detention, which constitutes a clear violation of Articles 3 and 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
According to the newly issued opinion, after the arrest of Al-Atoum, the SSA forcibly entered Al-Atoum's house and took his passport, laptop and mobile phone, then searched his car without presenting a search warrant, and then transferred him to a secret prison, where he remained forcibly disappeared for two and a half months.
UNWGAD noted that during the first two and a half months of Al-Atoum's detention, he was not informed of the charges against him, until 27 July 2020, which means more than 10 weeks after his arrest, and thus was unable to challenge the legal basis for his detention between 14 May 2020 and July 27, 2020, which is a violation of Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
UNWGAD considered that the UAE authorities did not grant Al-Atoum his right to appear promptly before a court to challenge the legality of his detention, contrary to Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, noting that the detained person must be brought before a judicial authority within 48 hours of his/her arrest, and that any delay longer must be very exceptional and justified under the circumstances, which was not available in the case of the Al-Atum.
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The opinion also mentioned on the reasons for Al-Atoum’s arrest, which was due to his Facebook posts criticizing the Jordanian government, stressing that the ruling issued by the Emirati judiciary to imprison Al-Atoum for 10 years is a clear violation of freedom of expression, and is not considered proportionate, as there is no evidence indicates that his posts directly or indirectly advocate violence, or threat morals, public order, or public welfare in a democratic society.
UNWGAD asserted that no trial should have taken place for Mr. Al-Atoum, however, Mr. Al-Atoum was tried and held incommunicado, denied his right to legal aid, and his family has not been able to visit him until now.
At the end of the opinion, UNWGAD concluded that the UAE authorities have deprived Al-Atoum of his freedom in violation of Articles 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11 (1) and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and are detaining him arbitrarily within the first, second and third categories.
UNWGAD also noted that the UAE authorities failed to establish a legal basis for the detention of Mr. Al-Atoum, and that his detention was due to the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression, which makes his detention arbitrary according to the three categories of arbitrary detention.
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UNWGAD called on the UAE government to take the necessary steps to rectify the situation of Mr. Al-Atoum without delay and urged it to release him and grant him an enforceable right to compensation, in accordance with international standards.
The opinion called on the UAE authorities to comply with relevant international standards, including those enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, accede to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and amend UAE legislation in line with human rights obligations.
It is indicated that UNWGAD considers detention arbitrary within three categories, if it is impossible to invoke any legal basis (Category I) or if the deprivation of liberty results from the exercise of rights or freedoms guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Category II), or In case of non-compliance, in whole or in part, with the international rules relating to the right to a fair trial, stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the relevant international instruments (Category III).