Amnesty reports on UAE ‘clampdown’ on political dissent News
Amnesty reports on UAE ‘clampdown’ on political dissent

[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] issued a report [press release] on Tuesday discussing the “unprecedented clampdown on dissent” in the United Arab Emirates [official website] since 2011, with more than 100 political activists jailed or prosecuted for calling for political reforms. This report details some of the tactics widely used by the government to silence its alleged critics, which include lawyers, university professors, students and civic society activists, as well as their family members. Many of the prosecuted and jailed individuals are serving prison sentences of up to 14 years for their civil actions. This “clampdown on dissent” started with a petition to the authorities in March 2011 calling for “political reform and for the right to vote and elect a parliament.” The report, entitled “‘There is no freedom here’: Silencing dissent in the UAE” [report, PDF], is described as an investigation that was published ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi and

exposes the huge gulf between the public image the UAE tries to project of a dynamic, modern and burgeoning economic power, home to luxury hotels, skyscrapers and designer shopping malls; and the darker reality of activists routinely persecuted and subjected to enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment.

AI concludes the report with several recommendations, including urging authorities to overhaul laws that criminalize the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association, including the cybercrimes law and a new anti-terrorism law passed in August. The UAE responded to the report, noting that the promotion of human rights is ongoing.

AI and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] 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 [JURIST report] to condemn the government’s detention of other rights activists.