Torture, arrests and spying on opponents

Human Rights Report: Continuous Deterioration of Civil Liberties in the UAE

10 Mar 2022
Human Rights Report: Continuous Deterioration of Civil Liberties in the UAE

The human rights organization CIVICUS pointed to the "contradiction" between the discourse of tolerance promoted by UAE authorities worldwide and their "dismal record of repression and detention of human rights defenders."

In a report on the state of civil liberties in the UAE, the organization stated that the Dubai Expo, which is taking place until the end of this month, clearly reflects this glaring contradiction, as government officials are using the event to promote the discourse that the Gulf country supports the values of "tolerance" and "openness." This is an attempt to obscure the fact that hundreds of independent lawyers, judges, journalists, teachers, students, and activists are being persecuted on the ground.

The report indicated that Expo coincides with the 10th anniversary of the arrest and arbitrary detention of a group of pro-democracy activists in what was known as the “UAE 94” case, as the authorities continue to arbitrarily imprison them in the high-security Al-Razeen prison, due to signing a petition calling for political reform.

The organization stated that 4 political detainees are still imprisoned despite the end of their sentences, noting that 3 of them, Abdullah Al-Hajri, Imran Al-Radwan Al-Harthy and Mahmoud Hassan Al-Hosani, ended their prison term in 2019, while the fourth, Fahd Al-Hajri, completed the sentence in the year 2020, and instead of releasing them, they were transferred to the so-called "counselling (Al-Munasaha) centres" in the same prison.

The report added that the list of detainees in the "UAE-94" case who are serving a 10-year prison sentence also includes human rights lawyers Dr. Muhammad Al-Roken and Dr. Muhammad Al-Mansoori and the preacher Muhammad Abdul Razzaq Al-Siddiq, the father of the late Emirati activist Alaa Al-Siddiq.

The report also noted that the authorities are still detaining activists Ahmed Mansoor and Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith after they were arrested for their online activities in 2015 and 2017, respectively.

According to the report, torture has been documented on a large scale in UAE prisons, warning of fears of its global practice, following the election of the Emirati government official, Ahmed Nasser Al Raissi, as head of “Interpol”, noting that Al Raisi “accused of supervising cases of torture” as he was as an inspector general in the Ministry of Interior.

The report criticized the newly adopted UAE Anti-Rumor and Cybercrime Law, adding that it criminalizes the work of journalists, whistleblowers, and activists, by using broad terminology to give authorities excessive discretion that enables them to impose long prison sentences and criminalize individuals who exercise their right to freedom of expression online.

According to the report, the authorities have increased their monitoring of human rights defenders inside and outside the UAE, and the government is using the Pegasus spyware as it did to hack the phone of a civil rights activist and subsequently imprisoned him.

The report classified civic space in the Emirates as “closed,” a classification used for countries that have a complete closure - in terms of law and practice - of civic space, where any criticism of the ruling authorities is severely punished.

The report recommends that the UAE authorities immediately and unconditionally release all those arbitrarily detained for their peaceful human rights work, and stop targeting human rights defenders and other individuals who are peacefully exercising their right of expression.

It also called on the authorities to review Federal Law No. 43 of 2021 related to combating rumors and cybercrimes, and to stop using spyware and surveillance technologies to target opponents and activists.