(Beirut) – New details regarding United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities’ persecution of the high-profile human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor reveal grave violations of his rights and demonstrate the State Security Agency’s unchecked powers to commit abuses, Human Rights Watch and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) said in a report released today.
The 30-page report, “The Persecution of Ahmed Mansoor: How the United Arab Emirates Silenced its Most Famous Human Rights Activist,” provides previously unrevealed details of his closed trial on speech-related charges and his appeal hearing, showing grave violations of due process and fair trial guarantees. The organizations also documented the UAE State Security Agency’s culpability for Mansoor’s abhorrent detention conditions since his arrest in March 2017, including indefinite solitary confinement and denial of his basic rights as a prisoner.
“Damning new details reveal just how cruelly the UAE has been treating Ahmed Mansoor, its most celebrated human rights activist, a man who courageously stood up to his abusive government, demanding it respect human rights when very few would dare,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The UAE authorities’ railroading of Ahmed Mansoor shows their utter contempt for the rule of law and their determination to intimidate its critics into silence by any means necessary.”
The report is based on statements obtained from a source with direct knowledge of Ahmed Mansoor’s court proceedings as well as interviews with two former prisoners who, at different times during Mansoor’s detention in al-Sadr prison, were detained alongside him in the designated isolation ward.
UAE security forces arrested Mansoor in a late-night house raid on March 20, 2017. In May 2018, the Abu Dhabi Court of Appeals’ State Security Chamber sentenced Mansoor to 10 years in prison on charges entirely related to his human rights activities. On December 31, 2018, the court of last resort, the Federal Supreme Court, upheld his unjust sentence, quashing his final chance at early release. Both trials were completely closed, and the government has refused requests to make public the charge sheet and court rulings.
“Ahmed Mansoor knew he risked prison when he devoted himself to protesting human rights violations in his country and the wider region, yet he still did so with courage and dedication,” said Khalid Ibrahim, Executive Director of GCHR. “That is why UAE authorities have punished him so harshly for his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.”
In convicting Mansoor, the court based its verdict on the UAE penal code and 2012 cybercrimes law, both of which criminalize the peaceful criticism of senior officials, the judiciary, and public policies, and provide a legal basis to prosecute and imprison anyone who argues for political reform.
Mansoor’s tweets about injustices, participation in international human rights conferences online, and his email exchanges and WhatsApp conversations with international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, were all included as evidence of criminal activity to support his spurious charges.
Since his arrest, UAE authorities have held Mansoor in a tiny cell in solitary confinement, deprived of reading materials, a bed, a mattress, and other basic necessities. He is also deprived of any meaningful contact with other prisoners or the outside world, including regular visits or calls with his wife and four sons, in clear violation of prisoners’ rights under international standards, which the UAE falsely claims to uphold.
Mansoor is not the only victim of the UAE authorities’ complete intolerance of dissent. Since 2011, when the UAE began a sustained assault on freedom of expression and association, Human Rights Watch and GCHR have repeatedly documented serious allegations of abuse at the hands of state security forces against dissidents and activists who have spoken up about human rights issues.
The most egregious abuses are arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and torture. The UAE has arrested and prosecuted hundreds of lawyers, judges, teachers, and activists and shut down key civil society associations and the offices of foreign organizations promoting democratic rights, effectively crushing any space for dissent.
The leaders of the UAE’s main international allies, including the United States and European countries, continue to cultivate their profitable arms sales and trade relationships unencumbered by the UAE’s serious and pervasive human rights violations. They should end their conspicuous silence about the country’s cruel treatment of Mansoor and others imprisoned in the UAE solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.