Accountability Required

Alia AbdulNour.. the right that does not die

4 May 2022
Alia AbdulNour.. the right that does not die

Today marks the third anniversary of the death of pollster Alia AbdulNour, who passed away on May 4, 2019, after a long battle with cancer while she was shackled by her hands and feet at Twam Hospital in the United Arab Emirates and remained confined to her bed in inhumane conditions until she died.

AbdulNour was deprived of her right to die with dignity surrounded by her family after UAE authorities rejected all appeals from United Nations human rights experts and human rights organizations to release her and allow her to spend the last days of her life in her home under the supervision of her family, instead of prison guards chaining her to a hospital bed.

The UAE Prosecution has rejected all requests from Alia AbdulNour's family for release based on her health condition, claiming that her health condition does not warrant her release, despite knowing that Article 32 of the 1992 UAE Prisons Law authorizes the prosecution to release a prisoner if he or she is suffering from a life-threatening illness.

The paradox of the matter is that while the prosecution refused to release Alia AbdulNour on the grounds that her condition was not serious, it issued a statement immediately after AbdulNour's death acknowledging her critical health condition due to cancer.

In an attempt to evade responsibility and the accusations she made after AbdulNour's death, the prosecution accused her in a statement of refusing treatment and blamed her for the deterioration of her health, according to the statement: "Alia AbdulNour is suffering from "breast cancer" and was already treated in 2008 at the expense of the state, and while she was serving her prison sentence in 2017, the symptoms of the disease reappeared, so the competent prison administration presented her to the prison’s clinics, where she refused to be examined and treated.

The statement added that at the request of the Department of Health and Corrections and due to her need for specialized medical care, Public Prosecutor ordered her transfer to Mafraq Hospital that specified the type of treatment she needed, but she rejected and refused treatment and even went on hunger strike several times.

In fact, the prosecution's statement was not only an evasion of responsibility for Alia AbdulNour's death, but a distortion of facts and circumstances. On October 31, 2016, the court acknowledged that Alia was not transferred for treatment, even though she needed it. The prosecution knew that AbdulNour suffered from medical negligence and that the prison doctor administered painkillers instead of treating her. Therefore, instead of launching an investigation to determine the causes of her death and admit the existence of medical negligence, it decided to accuse the deceased woman of refusing treatment.

If the prosecution did not know, it knows that the problem lies not only in the inhumane death of AbdulNour, but also in the existence of medical negligence that may have led to her death. Since this is a crime for which the judiciary will be held accountable, Public Prosecution wanted to avoid launching an investigation to determine the cause of death by accusing the deceased woman of refusing treatment.

In this context, it should be noted that the reason for the prosecution's attempts to avoid launching a transparent investigation that would uncover the causes of Alia AbdulNour's death is that it is one of the officials directly responsible for her death.Article 32 of the Prisons Law, which states, "If the prison doctor determines that the prisoner is suffering from a disease that threatens his life or the lives of others, or renders him completely incapable of acting, the prison management must submit him/her to the medical committee referred to in the preceding article for examination and consideration of his health discharge. The decision on medical care shall be issued by the Public Prosecutor and notified to the Ministry of Interior.

This was proved by the State Security Court during the trial of Alia AbdulNour when the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan published the facts of the trial which showed that the court ordered the hospitalization of Alia immediately after the end of the session because of her critical condition and asked the prosecution to give reasons why she was not admitted after the last session despite her critical condition, The court also reviewed the letter of the prison administration demanding the transfer of Alia to the hospital.

These facts prove that the prison administration requested Alia's transfer to the prison and the court ordered her hospitalization, but the prosecution refused to implement the court's order.

Although the United Nations Human Rights Office called on the United Arab Emirates Public Prosecutor's Office in 2019 to investigate the circumstances of Alia AbdulNour's death because of information that she was denied access to appropriate treatment and detained in degrading conditions that could amount to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, the Public Prosecutor's Office never launched such an investigation and settled for a contradictory explanation of her death.

Which confirms that AbdulNour's case is not just a temporary problem, that Alia AbdulNour is not the first person to die in UAE prisons as a result of medical negligence, and certainly not the last. In 2018, Emirati national Salem Musa Fayrouz Khamis also died in Al Sadr Prison as a result of medical negligence.

Salem entered prison in 2013 suffering from no other disease than diabetes. In prison, he developed gangrene as a result of medical negligence, which led to the amputation of his foot, after which his condition worsened and he later died - a story that reflects the horrific reality in UAE prisons.

The cruel and absurd suffering AbdulNour endured by the momonet of her arrest until death, from her arbitrary detention to the medical neglect that led to her death, are crimes that have no statute of limitations, that cannot be allowed to go unpunished.

Despite Alia's death, her right to justice and reparation cannot be time-barred, as affirmed by the 1985 United Nations Declaration on Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, which recognizes the obligation of the perpetrator to provide just compensation to his victim and acknowledges that victims have a right to fair treatment and access to justice mechanisms.

Alia's right to justice and reparation and to hold accountable the criminals responsible for her death is not a luxury. Rather, it is a fundamental issue that must not be overlooked, because the impunity of the criminal can be more dangerous than the crime itself. A criminal who is not punished can continue his crimes because he thinks he is above the law and can do whatever he wants without deterrence until crime becomes a reality and a way of life.

The crimes that Alia Abdel Nour was subjected to, including medical neglect, torture, and an unfair trial, must not go unnoticed, because silence about these types of crimes means repetition, and if we have only one Alia AbdulNour today, we can have hundreds of victims tomorrow, as long as the criminal has not been arrested, is still free, and can commit more crimes.

Especially since there are many cases and examples whose health has deteriorated in UAE prisons because they have been denied treatment or access to medication. We have been informed that detainee Muhammad Al Balushi has cancer and is in critical health condition, but the UAE authorities refuse to release him or provide him with the necessary treatment.

Therefore, the launching of a transparent investigation that will uncover the causes of Alia AbdulNour's death and lead to those responsible for her death being held accountable, under the direction of the Public Prosecutor, is very necessary, because failure to hold him accountable means that other victims will be exposed to what happened to Alia.

The Public Prosecutor's Office must also be held accountable, because Emirati citizens can never again trust an authority that constantly abuses and gets away with it every time.