His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan
United Arab Emirates
We are writing as the officers of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division to express our grave concern regarding the deteriorating human rights situation in the United Arab Emirates. We are concerned in particular by the apparent targeting of human rights activists, including our colleague Ahmed Mansoor, who is a prominent blogger, a vocal human rights advocate and a member of this Advisory Committee.
On April 8, 2011, at about 2:50 a.m., three men identifying themselves as police came to Mr. Mansoor's apartment, ostensibly to ask him some questions about his car. The men left after Mr. Mansoor refused to leave his apartment because he was afraid they would kidnap him.
Later that day at about 1:30 p.m., a second group of about eight to ten members of UAE security forces, including two police officers in uniform, took Mr. Mansoor away after they carried out a three-hour search of his apartment in Dubai. The security forces confiscated laptops, books, and some documents belonging to Mr. Mansoor. At about 4:30 p.m. they detained Mr. Mansoor and did not give his wife a reason for his detention and did not produce an arrest warrant. Since his detention, authorities have not allowed Mr. Mansoor regular access to his lawyer or to his family. Mr. Mansoor's lawyer said that police have now charged him with alcohol possession.
UAE authorities did not respond to repeated phone calls and emails from Human Rights Watch seeking information on Mr. Mansoor's detention. His detention follows a campaign of harassment against him and other activists after dozens of UAE nationals signed a petition published on March 9 that demanded constitutional and parliamentary changes in the Emirates, and free elections for all citizens.
In the days following Mr. Mansoor's detention, authorities detained two more activists advocating democratic reforms. On April 10, security forces in Dubai detained academic Nasser bin Ghaith, an economics lecturer at the Abu Dhabi branch of Paris' Sorbonne University who has frequently criticized the United Arab Emirates authorities for failing to undertake significant political reform, and on April 9, detained online activist Fahad Salem al-Shehhy in Ajman.
Before his detention, Mr. Mansoor received six death threats and has been subject to an online smear campaign on social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter. Since those threats and Mr. Mansoor's detention, his wife and children have left their home and gone into hiding. In the days leading up to his detention, Mr. Mansoor said that his employer, a telecommunications company partly owned by state-owned Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat), had pressured him to transfer to a position in Pakistan, a move he also thought was motivated by his political activities.
Mr. Mansoor is a dedicated human rights defender who continually works to improve the human rights situation for all Emiratis, an invaluable member of this committee, and, above all, a friend and colleague.
We therefore urge you and the government of the United Arab Emirates to take all necessary measures to release Mr. Mansoor, Mr. bin Ghaith and Mr. al-Shehhy, and to stop this politically motivated campaign of intimidation and harassment against them. In the meantime, UAE authorities should immediately disclose their whereabouts and allow regular visits from their families, their lawyers and human rights groups. We further urge your government to investigate the death threats against Mr. Mansoor and to take appropriate measures to ensure his security and that of his family. We ask that you allow him and other human rights defenders in the country to continue their important work without threat of arrest or interference.
MENA Advisory Committee
MENA Advisory Committee