Free activist detained for blogging in the UAE
Ahmed Mansoor is a human rights activist and blogger in the United Arab Emirates. He was arrested under mysterious circumstances by state security on 20 March under 'cybercrime' charges. Prior to his arrest, Ahmed was the last remaining free human rights activist working in the UAE.
Ahmed’s arrest follows a pattern of detaining human rights activists in the UAE – where many have been tortured. We fear Ahmed could face this fate. Call on Emirati authorities to release him now.
Free activist detained for blogging in the UAE
At around midnight on 20 March, 12 members of the UAE state security burst into Ahmed Mansoor’s home in the emirate of ‘Ajman, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They searched his house (it’s unclear whether they had a warrant to do so), confiscated his phones and other electronic devices, and after three hours of searching the property, took Ahmed Mansoor away with them.
For over a week, Ahmed's family and lawyer had no idea where he was. On 29 March, UAE authorities revealed that Ahmed was being held in al-Wathba Prison in Abu Dhabi, and that the 'Prosecution for Cybercrimes' had ordered his arrest, for allegedly 'promoting false and shaded information through the Internet and serving agendas aimed at spreading hatred and sectarianism'.
At risk of being tortured
Ahmed is the last of a long line of human rights activists in the UAE to be arrested simply for defending human rights. It’s common for those arrested for defending rights to be tortured in detention. We fear that Ahmed faces a similar fate.
In previous cases, activists have similarly been ‘disappeared’ while authorities subject them to torture – for example beatings, being subject to electric shocks and being deprived of sleep.
Alleged cybercrimes charges
Hours after he was arrested, the official state-run news website, the Emirates News Agency, announced that Ahmed Mansoor had been arrested on the orders of the Public Prosecution for Cybercrimes and detained pending further investigation. In the statement, the authorities accused him of ‘using social media [including Twitter and Facebook] sites to publish false and misleading information that harm national unity and social harmony and damage the country’s reputation’ and ‘promoting sectarian and hate-incited agenda’.
The authorities are punishing Ahmed for using social media to exercise his right to free speech. He is a prisoner of conscience, detained and punished simply for exercising his rights.
"We regard Mr Mansoor’s arrest and detention as a direct attack on the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the UAE.
Mr Mansoor’s outstanding work in the protection of human rights and the advancement of democracy...is of great value not only for the UAE but for the whole region."
UN human rights experts' statement on 28 March
The last free human rights activist in the UAE
Until his arrest, Ahmed Mansoor was been the only independent voice still speaking out through his blog and Twitter account against human rights violations from inside the UAE. As a result, he has faced repeated intimidation, harassment, and death threats from the UAE authorities or their supporters.
The authorities have placed him under physical and electronic surveillance: his computer, phone, email and Twitter accounts have all been hacked.
He’s been punished in the past for his rights activism: in 2011, after Ahmed and 132 other prominent figures in the UAE signed a petition to the president calling for political reform in the UAE, he was arrested and imprisoned on grounds of 'publicly insulting the UAE’s president, vice-president and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi'. Sentenced to three years in prison, he was pardoned and released before serving the term, but it's not clear whether his criminal record has been cleared.
Over the past five years, Ahmed has been assaulted by and faced numerous death threats from government supporters. While studying law, he was assaulted twice and subsequently stopped his studies. He’s been prevented from working, as authorities failed to give him a certificate needed for employment in the UAE. He’s also been banned from leaving the country for a number of years – the authorities confiscated his passport in 2011 and have never returned it.
Both the travel ban and the confiscation of his passport violate Ahmed Mansoor’s right under international human rights law to freedom of movement, as they are measures taken by the authorities to punish him for his peaceful human rights activism.
In 2015, in response to his courageous work, Ahmed won the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.