A UN rights expert expressed serious concern on Thursday with the 10-year imprisonment of five human rights defenders in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), calling for their immediate release.
The imprisoned individuals (Mohamed al-Mansoori, Hassan Mohammed Al-Hammad, Hadif Rashed Abdullah al-Owais, Ali Saeed Al-Kindi and Salim Hamdoon Al-Shahhi) are part of the “UAE94,” a group of 94 lawyers, human rights defenders and academics who were sentenced in 2013 for plotting to overthrow the government. The UN Special Rapporteur, Mary Lawlor, stated, “Their sentences were excessively severe and their detentions have been declared arbitrary according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.”
She also mentioned, “They should have never been detained in the first place for legitimately exercising the freedoms that all people are entitled to.” Additionally, Lawlor called “on the Emirati authorities to release these human rights defenders from detention in order to continue their meaningful and necessary human rights work.”
There is a concern that the trial of these individuals included a violation of their right to a fair trial through denial or limited access to legal counsel. Other allegations against the government include torture through a prolonged period of solitary confinement, turning off air conditioning in high-temperature conditions, and covering windows to prevent prisoners from seeing sunlight.
The UAE government has not responded to the statement. The imprisonment appears to be related to the 2011 Arab Spring, where the government convicted individuals suspected of belonging to the Islah group. This group has been accused of belonging to the banned group, Muslim Brotherhood.