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Two Emirati academics and activists face judicial harassment

This statement was originally published on on 25 January 2017.

Human rights defenders in the United Arab Emirates continue to be targeted for exercising their right to freedom of expression, online and offline, and for their peaceful promotion of human rights.

On 16 January 2017, academic and activist, Dr. Abulkhaleq Abudulla was arrested by the UAE State Security Apparatus. He is a prominent political science professor and human rights defender. It is believed that he was arrested as a result of postings he made on Twitter in which he promoted freedom of expression in the UAE. Details of his arrest and whereabouts are unknown at present. Concern is expressed for his well-being.

The case of human rights defender Dr. Naser Bin Ghaith has been adjourned until 22 February 2017 following a brief hearing before the Federal Appeal Court. His trial to date has failed to meet basic international standards for a fair trial. He is a respected economist and academic and was arrested in August 2015 during a raid on his home and held in an undisclosed location. Following his arrest he was held in solitary confinement in an undisclosed location for nine months. He was then transferred to Al-Sader jail where he suffers ill-treatment and is denied necessary medical attention. Charges against him are based on comments he made on Twitter and include allegedly “committing a hostile act against a foreign state,” “posting false information in order to harm the reputation and stature of the state and one of its institutions” and “posting false information about UAE leaders and their policies”. For further information see Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) appeals.

GCHR expresses serious concern at the arrest of Dr. Abulkhaleq Abdulla and regarding the ongoing judicial harassment directed at Dr.Naser Bin Ghaith and believes, they are solely related to the exercise of their right to freedom of expression and their work in promoting and protecting human rights in UAE.

The GCHR urges the authorities in the UAE to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Abulkhaleq Abdulla and Dr. Naser Bin Ghaith as their arrests and detention are solely related to their peaceful human rights activities;
  • Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Dr. Abulkhaleq Abdulla and Dr. Naser Bin Ghaith while they remain in detention;
  • Immediately and unconditionally release and drop all charges against all human rights defenders who are being detained as a result of their legitimate human rights activities and the exercise of their right to freedom of expression,;
  • Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the UAE are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
What other IFEX members are saying
  • UAE to hold new hearing for academic Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith

    It is clear the Government of the UAE is failing to treat Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith in a manner consistent with international standards. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has, for example, concluded that prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement amounts to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and should be prohibited. The government’s failure to provide Dr. bin Ghaith with adequate medical care, as well as its failure to guarantee him consistent access to his lawyer and family, violates a number of provisions of the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Dr. bin Ghaith’s claims of torture suggest that the UAE is additionally in violation of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment (CAT), to which the country acceded in 2012.

  • Health of detained UAE Academic Nasser Bin Ghaith at risk, rights groups say

    in Ghaith is facing in total five charges, three of them for expressing his thoughts online. Some of the charges fall under Article 29 of the UAE’s 2012 Cybercrime Law which criminalizes publishing content with “sarcastic intent” or to “damage the reputation” of the state or its leaders, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in jail. This accusation is in relation to a tweet “ridiculing the UAE’s decision to allot land to build a Hindu temple”, according to local media reports. The two remaining charges are related to his links with the Ummah and Al-Islah parties listed by Emirati authorities as “terrorist” organizations.

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