Following the amendments made by the judicial authority of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) introduced in September through the Federal Law No. 11 of 2016 and with the adoption of the principle of the two degrees’ litigation, the Federal Supreme Court has abandoned the case of the economist and human rights’ activist Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith. As a first step, the Federal Court of Appeal has taken over the case.
Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith, who has been detained since august 2015, was brought before the Federal Court of Appeal on January 17, 2017, and tried for his peaceful activities on his personal Twitter account @N_BinGhaith. The charges included posts that were considered by the Emirati authorities as disrespectful and humiliating for insulting and disturbing the relation with a foreign country on the Internet. The posts were also judged prompt to encourage sedition, hatred and racism among the UAE and were damaging the national unity and social peace.
The hearing session was quickly over. The court did not allow neither the accused nor his lawyer to submit their statements and the chair, an Egyptian judge, decided to postpone Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith’s hearing session to the 22nd of February 2017.
The International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR) recalls that preventing Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith and his lawyer from evoking his exposure to enforced disappearance, torture and ill-treatment during his detention represents a clear breach of Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith’s rights. Moreover, the judge failed to hear the poor treatment conditions Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith has undergone due to the Al-Sadr prison authorities lack of adequate health care and denying him from his high blood pressure medication in addition to preventing him from meeting his lawyer. Therefore, by neglecting Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith’s request to the Court to investigate into these allegations, the UAE has further violated his rights.
Moreover, the hearing session was led by an Egyptian judge assigned by the UAE authorities, which shows a refusal to give Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith a fair trial, since the charges held against Dr. Bin Ghaith consist in insulting the Republic of Egypt via twitter. The trial and the court will likely not be impartial and fair.
In fact, appointing a non- Emirati judge does not guarantee the independence of the Federal Court of Appeal. As it was highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Ms. Gabriela Knaul, during her visit to the United Arab Emirates on January 27, 2014, the recruitment of foreign judges, rather than Emiratis, on the basis of temporary contracts that are annually renewed give the UAE leverage on such judges. In addition, Ms. Gabriela Knaul expressed her concern that these recruitments could be a result of pressure from the executive branch.
The International Centre for Justice and Human Rights in Geneva therefore calls upon the authorities of the United Arab Emirates to:
-Immediately and unconditionally release the academic, economist and human rights activist Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith and all other political opponents and human rights defenders and put an end to the abuses against them that affect their human dignity.
-Provide Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith and all other detainees with fair trial guarantees and most importantly with the presumption of innocence, exclude all the statements extracted under torture and allow Dr. Bin Ghaith to receive regular visits from his lawyer visit. In addition, the UAE must commit to the relevant international standards.
-Bide by International Standards on the Protection of all Persons under any form of Detention or Imprisonment and other international human rights declarations.
-Allow the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers as well as International Human Rights organizations to visit Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith in prison and to attend his trial in order to inspect the UAE officials’ conformity with the relevant international standards.