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UAE must be held accountable for torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders and activists

26 June 2020

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) must be heldaccountable for the torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders andactivists in prisons and secret detention centres, say four human rights groupson the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), theInternational Service for Human Rights (ISHR), the International Campaign forFreedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)have released their submission to the United Nations Committee Against Torture(CAT), which was postponed this year due to the COVID-19 crisis until April2021 at the CAT’s 71st session.

“The upcoming review of the UAE is all the more urgent in light of thecountry's persistent non-compliance with the Convention against Torture,” says GeraldStaberock, OMCT Secretary General. “Despite the State ratifying theConvention in 2012, torture continues to be widespread in the UAE criminaljustice system, from arrest and interrogation to detention.” This initial review comes almost eight yearsafter the UAE’s ratification of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel,Degrading or Inhuman Treatment or Punishment.

“We’re particularly concerned that human rightsdefenders, including GCHR’s Advisory Board member Ahmed Mansoor, are being kept in permanent solitary confinement inunhygienic conditions, which puts their mental and physical health injeopardy,” says Khalid Ibrahim, GCHR Executive Director. In addition,with the spread of COVID-19 in UAE prisons, the lives of all prisoners arecurrently at risk, whether they are held in isolation or in overcrowded cells.

According to the report, “The UAE authoritieshave prosecuted and imprisoned scores of human rights defenders, politicalactivists, journalists and critics, and systematically silenced peacefuldissenting voices. The crackdown on the right to freedom of expression has beenso severe that, today, freedom of speech and civic space are virtuallynon-existent in the country.”

“Under the pretext of national security, theUAE authorities have subjected human rights defenders and activists toarbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, prolonged isolation, torture andother ill-treatment, unfair trials and harsh prison sentences, solely for theirpeaceful human rights activities, including engaging with UN mechanisms,” says SalmaEl Hosseiny, ISHR Human Rights Council Programme Manager.

“Such practices reflect the authorities’ utterdisregard for fundamental rights and human dignity, and inflict an immeasurablemental and physical toll on prisoners’ health. As such, we remain deeplyconcerned about Maryam Al-Balushi, a young Emirati woman, who afteryears of suffering degrading treatment and solitary confinement was left withno choice but to attempt suicide in an isolation cell in Al-Wathba prison,”says Sofia Kaltenbrunner, ICFUAE Campaign Manager.

In this report, GCHR, ICFUAE, ISHR and OMCTsummarise the situation concerning torture in the UAE, including its laws andinternational obligations; the practice of torture and cruel, inhuman ordegrading treatment in prisons in the UAE, with specific cases of human rightsdefenders and other prisoners including women; the use of forced confession;the lack of redress for victims of torture; and the reaction of the state toreports of torture; in addition to providing recommendations to the UAE. Clickhere to read the full report in English

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