United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, asked the UAE government on Wednesday, February 10, to release three human rights defenders serving 10 year jail terms. She claimed that their mistreatment and harassment in prison amounts to torture.
In a press release, Lawlor claimed that, “not only have Mohamed Al-Roken, Ahmed Mansoor and Nasser Bin Ghaith been criminalized and imprisoned for their non-violent and legitimate calls for respect for human rights in the UAE, they have been subjected to ill-treatment in prison.”
Human rights defenders undergoing long term imprisonment will not be forgotten by my mandate. #AhmedMansoor #MohamedAlRoken and #NasserBinGhaith are all serving 10 year prison sentences in conditions that may amount to torture in #UAE.
— Mary Lawlor UN Special Rapporteur HRDs (@MaryLawlorhrds) February 10, 2021
Prior to their incarceration, Roken, Mansoor and Bin Ghaith had been working tirelessly for the protection of human rights in the UAE and were vocal supporters of the right to freedom of speech, expression and political dissent.
Roken was imprisoned in 2012, while Bin Ghaith and Mansoor were imprisoned in 2015 and 2018 respectively. The charges against them were of “plotting against the government”, “public criticism of the government”, insulting “status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols” and criticizing political leaders in social media over alleged human rights violations among others.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had claimed that the detentions of Mohamed al-Roken and Naseer Bin Ghaith were arbitrary. Roken’s sentencing followed a mass trial in which 94 people were charged for plotting to overthrow the Emirati government.
Masoor and Bin Ghaith have carried out hunger strikes, some lasting for more than 80 days, against mistreatment in the prison. According to the UN, both of them have been put in solitary confinement and small cells for long periods, denied certain basic facilities including necessary medical care.
“Issuing 10-year prison sentences to defenders in connection to their human rights work is not only an attempt to silence them and their efforts, but also an attempt to intimidate and deter others from engaging in this legitimate work, at a crucial time in the UAE when fundamental freedoms are undermined and civic space continues to shrink,” Lawlor said.
The UAE government has been accused of stifling political dissent in the country by various international human rights groups and organizations on various occasions. Last year the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) had accused the government of illegally detaining five activists even after they had served their sentence in the infamous UAE 94 trials of 2013.