UN rapporteur urges UAE to free five rights activists

A United Nations special rapporteur has called on the United Arab Emirates to immediately free five human rights defenders who have been held in harsh conditions in the country’s prisons for eight years.

Mohamed al-Mansoori, Hassan Mohammed al-Hammad, Hadif Rashed Abdullah al-Owais, Ali Saeed al-Kindi, and Salim Hamdoon al-Shahhi are part of a group of 94 lawyers, human rights defenders, and academics who were sentenced to 10 years in jail in July 2013 for plotting to dispose of the ruling regime.

“Their sentences were excessively severe and their detentions have been declared arbitrary according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,” Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said Friday.

“They should have never been detained in the first place for legitimately exercising the freedoms that all people are entitled to,” she added.

Many of the so-called “UAE94” groups have belonged to the Islah, a group suspected of ties to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Lawlor further said there were “worrying allegations that they are subjected to long periods in solitary confinement, which could amount to torture”.

According to the report, the group’s right to a fair trial might have been violated as they were denied or given limited access to legal counsel.

“I call on the Emirati authorities to release these human rights defenders from detention in order to continue their meaningful and necessary human rights work,” Lawlor said.

The US-allied UAE shows little tolerance for peaceful dissent and bans political parties.

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