UAE: authorities launch mass prosecution of human rights activists during COP28

Sham proceedings target more than 80 Emirati dissidents

Ahmed Mansoor, subject of a Amnesty UK protest during a Man City game last month, is among those facing new trumped-up terrorism charges

Move described as ‘a jaw-dropping show of contempt for human rights by the Emirati authorities’ 

Responding to news that the Emirati authorities have begun a mass prosecution on trumped-up terrorism charges of more than 80 Emirati human rights activists - including renowned currently-jailed Emirati human rights activists who have already spent a decade behind bars - Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said:

“To begin hearings in a new sham mass trial in the midst of what it billed as ‘the most inclusive COP ever’, is a jaw-dropping show of contempt for human rights by the Emirati authorities. 

“The timing appears to be deliberately intended to send a clear message to the world that it will not tolerate the slightest peaceful dissent and that the authorities have no intention of reforming the country’s dire rights record.  

“COP28 has already laid bare the barriers of fear and legalised repression that smother dissent in the UAE.

“Since June, multiple Emirati activists have informed Amnesty that many imprisoned dissidents have been cut off from the outside world - the only form of communication allowed being monitored phone calls to ask their families to find them lawyers. 

“The UAE must immediately release all arbitrarily-detained prisoners, drop charges against them and end their ruthless assault on human rights and freedoms.” 

New mass trial

The new mass trial - first reported by the Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre and confirmed to Amnesty by exiled Emirati activists - is a joint prosecution of more than 80 defendants, including victims of a past mass trial such as Mohamed al-Siddiq, father of the late exiled Emirati human rights defender Alaa al-Siddiq, prisoners of conscience such as Khalid al-Nuaimi, Hadef al-Owais, Nasser bin Ghaith and Sultan al-Qasimi, and longstanding human rights defenders such as Mohamed al-Roken and Ahmed Mansoor (see below). 

The UAE does not allow indictments, judgments or other official documents relating to politically-motivated prosecutions to be made public, and to date its tightly-controlled press has not reported on the trial. 

The family of AbdulSalam al-Marzooqi, an already-imprisoned victim of the notorious 2012-13 mass trial of 94 Emiratis, believe that he is among the defendants in the new case. His only contact with his family was more than six months ago, asking for a lawyer. The lawyer assigned to him has refused to share any information with the family, saying only that he is forbidden to do so.

AbdulSalam’s daughter Jenan told Amnesty: 

“I’m speechless. The UAE finds itself able to commit more and more violations and injustices because no-one is holding it accountable.”  

Jenan, like the rest of his family, has been stripped of her Emirati nationality and lives in exile.

Fresh charges against Ahmed Mansoor

Last month, Amnesty UK campaigners flew a protest plane over Manchester City FC’s Etihad Stadium carrying a large banner saying “UAE - Free Ahmed Mansoor”. Mansoor is a blogger, poet and leading Emirati human rights activist who has been in jail and kept in solitary confinement in the UAE since 2017 as a direct result of his campaigning activity. In 2017, Mansoor was convicted on charges which included “insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols”, “publishing false information to damage the UAE’s reputation abroad” and “portraying the UAE as a lawless land”. The following year, Mansoor was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, with the sentencing court also ordering that he be placed under surveillance for three years after release. His conviction and sentence were upheld by the country’s supreme court on 31 December 2018.

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