Amnesty International on Monday called on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to immediately release a group of dissidents who have been behind bars beyond the end of their prison sentences.
The “UAE-94” case concerns a mass trial conducted by UAE authorities against dissidents and members of the al-Islah political movement in 2012–2013, which Amnesty called “grossly unfair.” The group of 10 men were arrested around March and April in the year 2012 for peaceful dissent and political opposition and were amongst the 94 Emiratis who were prosecuted in the “UAE-94” case. They were also among the 69 defendants who received unappealable prison sentences following the mass trial.
Amnesty documentation since 2017 showcased how 24 Emiratis have been imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of speech and expression, among which only 7 were released and 17 are yet to be freed by UAE authorities. Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, stated:
These men have already spent a decade behind bars for daring to speak out against the Emirati authorities or being perceived as political opposition, and now this injustice is being prolonged past their long-awaited release dates. This is the latest example of how UAE authorities weaponize the justice system, undermine the rule of law, criminalize peaceful dissent, and silence anyone who disagrees with them. UAE authorities must immediately release anyone detained beyond the completion of their prison sentence, and cease the unlawful practice of arbitrarily extending prison terms. This should come hand in hand with an immediate and unconditional release of all those who are detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights.
Among the dissidents, five of the men who have been jailed indefinitely since March were signatories to a 2011 petition calling for the UAE to establish a democratic parliament. Only one of the 15 “UAE-94” defendants who have completed their sentences has been freed. Five have been prosecuted by UAE authorities because of their association with al-Islah, an Emirati Islamist group which was affiliated with the international Muslim Brotherhood movement.
As per the 2014 counterterrorism law, Emirati courts can order a person to be placed in “counselling [centers]” for “adopting extremist or terrorist thought.” The centers send reports every three months to the Office of Public Prosecution which determines the release of individuals. No individual has the right to be present or to have legal representation in these proceedings or the right to appeal their continued detention.