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Abu Dhabi Investment Authority building, modern tall buildings on the Corniche seafront, Abu Dhabi, UAE. © 2012 Minden Pictures/AP Images

(Beirut) – A 42-year-old woman whom United Arab Emirates security forces denied adequate medical care and mistreated for more than three years died on May 4, 2019, Human Rights Watch said today. Alia Abdel Nour had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, soon after her arrest on undisclosed charges.

A UAE court convicted Abdel Nour of terrorism in 2017 in a case marred by allegations of torture and serious due process violations. While imprisoned, she was denied regular family visits, and since her transfer to a hospital in November 2016, authorities had kept her hands and feet shackled to her hospital bed for extended periods of time. Since mid-March, authorities had allowed family members to visit Abdel Nour for no more than 20 minutes a day. Despite her failing health, the authorities ignored repeated calls by international rights groups, European parliamentarians, United Nations experts, and her family members to release her on health grounds. 

“UAE authorities showed just how cruel they can be by denying Alia Abdel Nour the chance to spend her last days with her family,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “This case exemplifies why the UAE’s self-dubbed ‘Year of Tolerance’ is just another publicity stunt aimed at whitewashing the country’s deeply repressive policies.”

Abdel Nour’s family members said that after doctors informed them that she had only months to live, they repeatedly reached out to the crown prince, the Interior Ministry, and the public prosecutor to request her compassionate release on health grounds, which is permitted under Emirati law. They said that their requests had been rejected without explanation or ignored. Nor did the authorities respond to international calls for an investigation into the allegations of her ill-treatment and torture.

“Despite her deeply flawed prosecution and terminal illness, Emirati authorities chose to keep Alia Abdel Nour imprisoned and in isolation during her final days,” Page said. “The tragedy of her death in detention speaks volumes about the current state of human rights in the UAE.”

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