(Beirut, April 12, 2019) – UAE authorities should immediately free Ahmed Mansoor, an award-winning human rights activist whose health has been deteriorating rapidly as he carries out a hunger strike he began nearly a month ago, Human Rights Watch said today.
Following an unfair trial, Mansoor was sentenced to 10 years in prison in May 2018 based on his peaceful calls for reform. A source close to Mansoor, who is on hunger strike to protest his unjust imprisonment, said that his health is worsening, and he appears to have suffered massive weight loss.
“Ahmed Mansoor is risking his health to call attention to his deeply unjust imprisonment simply because he advocated for the kind of tolerant, progressive society the UAE claims to be,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “UAE authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Mansoor so that he can continue to serve as a voice for justice in a region desperately in need of it.”
Mansoor, who won the prestigious Martin Ennals award in 2015, is a member of the Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa Advisory Committee. The authorities have not revealed where he is being held. The Middle East and North Africa Advisory Committee members join Human Rights Watch in their concern for his well-being and the call for his immediate and unconditional release.
The authorities arrested Mansoor on March 20, 2017. For more than a year, he had no access to a lawyer and only very limited visits with family. On December 31, 2018, the Federal Supreme Court, the country’s court of last resort in state security cases, upheld his sentence, quashing his final chance at early release. In the weeks leading up to his arrest, Mansoor had criticized the UAE’s prosecution of activists for speech-related offenses. Mansoor had also used his Twitter account to draw attention to human rights violations across the region, including in Egypt and Yemen. He also signed a joint letter with other activists in the region calling on leaders at the Arab League summit in Jordan in March 2017 to release political prisoners in their countries.
In April 2011, UAE authorities detained Mansoor over his peaceful calls for reform and in November, after an unfair trial, the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi sentenced him to three years in prison for insulting the country’s top officials. Although the UAE president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, pardoned Mansoor, authorities never returned his passport, subjecting him to a de facto travel ban. He has also faced physical assaults, death threats, government surveillance, and a sophisticated spyware attack.
Mansoor’s convictions and current sentence, resulting from his exercise of his right to free speech, his political opinions, and his status as a human rights defender, represent an act of brutal state repression that violates Mansoor’s rights under international human rights law, Human Rights Watch said.