UAE arrests prominent lawyer in ongoing crackdown on Islamist dissidents

[JURIST] The United Arab Emirates (UAE) detained a prominent human rights lawyer on Tuesday after also arresting his son and brother-in-law, bringing to 25 the total number of Islamist dissidents detained since late March. Mohammed al-Roken, 50, who last year co-defended five Islamists stripped of citizenship by the UAE, was arrested some time around 2:00 AM on his way to the Dubai police station to report the disappearances of his son Rashed al-Roken and son-in-law Abdullah al-Hajjari several hours earlier. All three are active members of the Reform and Social Guidance Association (al-Islah) [advocacy website, in Arabic], a nonviolent political association advocating greater adherence to Islamic precepts. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website; press release] and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website; press release] have condemned the arrests and called for the release of al-Roken and another prominent human rights lawyer, Mohammed Mansoori, who was also arrested in the last few days. The authorities began arresting al-Islah members on March 26, when security forces arrested Ahmed al-Zaabi, a former judge, and Ahmed Ghaith al-Suwaidi together at a Dubai gas station. They detained the chairman of al-Islah, Sheikh Sultan Bin Kayed al-Qasimi, on April 20. Al-Roken had been providing legal assistance to the al-Islah members who have been detained without charge since authorities began making the arrests in March. The United Nations on Tuesday called on the UAE to provide protection to human rights defenders [UN News Centre report] to ensure they can carry out their work, with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] citing concern over the accelerating crackdown on dissent. The UAE allows no organized political opposition.

AI and HRW in late April called on the UAE to stop the recent crackdown on political activists [JURIST report] by ending arrests and releasing those already in custody, expressing concern that the UAE is threatening to revoke prisoners' citizenship as a way of punishing them for expressing public dissent, an action that the advocacy groups contend violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text]. AI has previously called on the UAE government [press release] to release such "prisoners of conscience" in compliance with international law. Last November the UAE Federal Supreme Court imprisoned five activists [JURIST report] for participating in a campaign seeking political liberties. All five were charged under § 176 of the UAE Penal Code for publicly insulting UAE President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed [official website] and other government officials, and were arrested in April 2011 after signing an online petition demanding political reforms. HRW has also been critical of the UAE for its recent treatment of political activists [JURIST report]. HRW criticized UAE officials in April 2011 for their arrest of a political blogger, and urged international public institutions [press releases] to condemn the government's detention of other rights activists.

 

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