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UN rights experts call for release of foreign UAE prisoners

[JURIST] A group of UN human rights experts on Monday demanded the immediate release [press release] of five foreign-national detainees that have been held by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) [BBC backgrounder] for the past 18 months. The prisoners were incarcerated for suspected terrorist activity under a new counter-terrorism law [text, PDF] and have reportedly been subjected to torture, leading them to sign forced confessions. According to the rights experts, the prisoners suffer from chronic and potentially permanent hearing and sight-loss as a result of their confirmed torture and lack of access to medical care. The experts stated:

We have also received reports according to which the sole basis for their conviction is the confessions they were forced to make under torture. International law, including the Convention against Torture ratified by the UAE, clearly prohibits the use of any evidence obtained under torture during a trial.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, part of the UN Human Rights Council [official website], previously denounced these detentions in a decision [opinion, PDF] in December.

The detentions come in the wake of a heightened international response to terrorism. In August 2014 the UAE president endorsed a new law [JURIST report] to better combat evolving terrorist threats. The law, a revision of the country's nearly 10-year-old counter-terrorism law, introduced new security measures to counter crimes such as attacks on the royal family, the joining of a terrorist force and money laundering. In addition, a person could be charged as a terrorist for simply threatening, planning or inciting a terrorist act. The 70-article bill also expanded penalties for these and other crimes to include the death penalty, life imprisonment and fines of up to USD $27 million. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] released a report in 2014 [official report] in response to the law outlining that that law potentially threatens the lives and liberty of peaceful political critics.

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