Third anniversary of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) opinion on the UAE 94 case
Yesterday Nov. 22, 2016 marked the third anniversary of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) opinion on the UAE 94 case. A high-profile mass trial at the center of the UAE general crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly and more especially on activists advocating for reform in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In one single trial, the Emirati authorities judged 94 citizens, sentencing over60 of them to between seven and ten years of imprisonment. Amongst the 61 convicted, seven, known as the UAE 7, were tried in absentia after being revoked of their nationality in 2011.
The Emirati authorities made of the affair a fearful example to prevent against the uprising of any political opposition and removed from the public space human rights advocacy leaders and eminent Emirati critics. The WGAD, in its opinion No.60/2013, emphasized the impossibility of a fair trial in the UAE94 case given the circumstances of the arrests, the scale of the trial, in addition to the bases of the charges held against the dissidents, which were solely based on the exercise of their right to a political opinion Moreover, the working group declared that the UAE had a duty to release the 61 indicted reformists, an obligation that the Emirati authorities have ignored.
Many Emirati prominent personalities in the fight for human rights such as Dr. Al Roken, an eminent human rights lawyer and academic, Dr. Mohammed Al Mansoori, a high-profile lawyer, judge Mohammed Saeed Al-Abdouli, Sheikh Dr Sultan Kayed Mohammed Al-Qassimi, a senior member of the Ras Al-Khaimah ruling family, Mr. Khalid AlShaiba Al-Nuaimi,, Mr. Hussain Ali Al-Najjar Al-Hammadi, a teacher, and Mr. Saleh Mohammed Al-Dhufairi. blogger and former teacher, were convicted in this famous case.
The conclusions of the opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on the UAE 94, issued on November 22, 2013, show that the Emirati authorities have violated the right to a fair trial of the defendants, a right set in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). According to the findings of the working group, the arrest and prolonged detention of the 61 defendants was solely based on the peaceful exercise of their human rights, including their right to freedom of opinion, of expression as well as of peaceful assembly and association, which are all enshrined in the UDHR. Their arrest and detention was therefore considered arbitrary by the WGAD, which led the Working group to call upon the UAE to release the detainees and provide them with reparation.
Today, nothing has changed since the opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on the UAE 94, the right to freedom of expression remains widely suppressed in the medias and newspapers but also on social media platforms. Last year, the creation and participation to associations was further curtailed by the adoption of a new legislative framework on anti-discrimination and anti-hate (Federal Law No.2 of 2015), which entails provisions that empower the courts to dissolve associations and criminalize their creators.
To further criminalize reformists and online/offline activists, the Emirati authorities have been calling on the Federal Law No. of 2012 on Combating Cybercrimes and the Federal Law No.7 of 2014 on Combating Terrorism. In fact, the 2014 counterterrorism legislation has taken the repressive policy of the UAE one step further by introducing death penalty for threats to the state unity or the social peace of the country.
Furthermore, the State Security apparatus strengthen the repression against human rights defenders and reformist through the adoption of a policy of harassment and reprisals against the families of the UAE 94. Several cases attest of this practice such as the detention of Mr. Obaid Yousef Al-Zaabi, brother of one of the UAE 94 detainees, Dr Ahmed Al-Zaabi.