UN demands release of Jordanian journalist imprisoned in UAE for Facebook post
On November 9, 2017, the working group on arbitrary detention (WGAD) published an opinion calling for the immediate release of Jordanian journalist Tayseer AlNajjar who has been detained in the UAE since 2015, during which he was disappeared for 50 days, as a result of a Facebook post.
The WGAD qualified Tayseer's detention as arbitrary as it resulted from him exercising his right to freedom of expression.
The UN experts also expressed concerns over the UAE using its cybercrime Law to criminalize peaceful dissent.
Al-Najjar, who was detained by UAE authorities in December 2015 and spent more than a year awaiting trial, will also be deported as soon as he completes his sentence. The State Security Court in Abu Dhabi found him guilty of “insulting symbols of the state” on social media. Under Article 29 of the 2012 UAE Cybercrime Law, publishing statements, information, news or rumours “with intent to make sarcasm or damage the reputation, prestige or stature” of the state, its institutions and leaders is a crime punishable by temporary imprisonment and a fine.
On 15 March, a United Arab Emirates court sentenced Jordanian journalist Tayseer al-Najjar to three years in jail and fined him 500,000 dirhams (about 136,000 US dollars) for insulting the state in a Facebook post he published in 2014 while he was still living in Jordan.
In its opinion, the Working Group considered AlNajjar's detention to be void of any legal basis as he was not informed of the charges against him until almost one year after his arrest.
The WGAD also considered AlNajjar's imprisonment arbitrary as it was carried out in violation of fundamental legal safeguards.
UN experts expressed particular concern over the use of incommunicado detention by the Emirati security forces recalling that this practice puts detainees at risk of torture.
Finally, the UN experts noted that Tayseer AlNajjar's detention clearly resulted from him exercising his right to freedom of expression.They voiced concern over the use of Cybercrime Law in Tayseer's case, a law which is in itself "at odds with the relevant norms of international law"