Human Rights Council Urgently Called to Address Ongoing Abuses Against Human Rights Defenders and Activists in the UAE

[Geneva, Switzerland – September, 2023] — The 54th session of the Human Rights Council, currently underway in Geneva from September 11 to October 13, 2023, serves as a critical platform for nations worldwide to address issues of human rights. We strongly urge all members of the Human Rights Council to prioritize the discussion of human rights abuses against human rights defenders and activists in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with the same vigor and commitment as they do when addressing violations in other regions.

The UAE, as a member of the Human Rights Council, must be held accountable for its actions. We call upon all members to heed the urgent warning that failing to address these issues will perpetuate the violation of fundamental human rights and lead to continued suffering for individuals.

Alarming data on the UAE’s treatment of human rights defenders and activists includes:

1. More than three-quarters of these prisoners have completed their sentences yet remain arbitrarily detained, with UAE authorities citing vague laws as the basis for their continued detention, in clear violation of international human rights law.

2. The list of 60 detainees includes prominent figures such as human rights defenders, activists, academics, lawyers, university professors, and even royal family members, such as Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken, Dr. Mohammed Al-Mansoori, Hadef Al-Owais, and Sheikh Sultan Al-Qasimi.

3. By mid-2023, many of these detainees will have spent almost 11 years behind bars, some of them denied family visits and communication with their loved ones for up to five years.

4. Families of these detainees have been subjected to unrelenting reprisals, including the arbitrary revocation of citizenship, travel bans, restrictions on education and employment, and frozen bank accounts.

5. The UAE authorities have introduced repressive legislation, including the Cybercrime Law (No. 34 of 2021) and the establishment of the National Munasaha Centre (No. 28 of 2019), which further curtails online activism and dissent and allows for indefinite detention under the guise of “counselling.”

The international community, human rights organizations, and UN human rights experts have consistently documented these violations by the UAE authorities since 2011. Furthermore, the UAE’s continued appearance in annual reports of the UN Secretary-General on intimidation and reprisals underscores the persistent harassment faced by human rights defenders in the country.

During this session of the Human Rights Council, we call upon all members to:

1. Urgently request the UAE to amend all repressive laws that violate human rights, including the Anti-Terrorism Law, the Penal Code, and the Cybercrime Law, and ensure compliance with international human rights standards.

2. Demand the immediate closure of all secret detention centers.

3. Advocate for an end to all restrictions on civil society organizations and the establishment of entirely independent civil society institutions.

4. Call for an end to restrictions on civic space, and the protection of the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, enabling meaningful participation of civil society and indigenous peoples at COP28.

The Human Rights Council has a profound responsibility to safeguard human rights and address violations wherever they occur. The UAE’s actions cannot be tolerated, and addressing these grave violations is essential to uphold the principles of justice, fairness, and human rights for all individuals.

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