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UAE: UN experts condemn trial of foreign nationals based on forced confessions and call for their release

GENEVA (15 February 2016) – A group of United Nations human rights experts today urged the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to respect the fundamental rights of several foreign nationals who have been arbitrarily detained for a year and a half, and called for their immediate and unconditional release.

Salim Alaradi, a Libyan-Canadian citizen; Kamal Ahmed Al Darrat and Mohamed Kamal Al Darrat, father and son, both Libyan-American citizens; Adel Rajab Beleid Nasef and Moad Mohamed Al Hashmi, both Libyan citizens, were arrested by State Security officials in August 2014.

“The arbitrary nature of their detention was confirmed by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary detention in a recent decision* and we called on the Emirati authorities to release them without delay,” said human rights expert Seong-Phil Hong, who currently heads the expert panel.

“We have received credible information according to which the detainees were tortured and forced to sign confessions” said the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez. “The suspects have been also allegedly held incommunicado in secret detention locations and in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time. This is very troubling as it reinforces the risks of being tortured or ill-treated.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Pūras, noted that most of the detainees suffer from serious health conditions, including permanent loss of sight and hearing and risk of paralysis, due to the torture suffered and the lack of access to adequate medical care.

“Reports indicate that they have only been provided with minimal access to medical care which has had a devastating impact on their health,” the expert said. “This goes against international standards and is matter of very serious concern for us.”

Furthermore, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Mónica Pinto, whose predecessor visited the UAE** in 2014, underlined that the five men have not been able to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court.

“Throughout this time, they only had extremely limited access to their lawyers, and all of their conversations have been monitored; in turn the lawyers have had limited access to their clients’ files,” she noted. “This is a clear breach of due process guarantees enshrined in both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Arab Charter on Human Rights.”

Mr. Alaradi and Messrs. Al Darrat were eventually charged with funding, supporting and cooperating with alleged terrorist organizations under UAE’s counterterrorism law 7/2014 on 18 January 2016. Their trial is scheduled to open on 15 February. Mr. Nasef and Mr Al Hashimi have been charged in a separate file and their trial opened in late 2015. Their sentencing is scheduled for 29 February.

“In an extremely concerning turn of events, Mr. Alaradi and Messrs. Al Darrat were charged under a law that had not yet entered into force at the time of their arrest, in contravention of the principle of non-retroactivity of criminal law,” the human rights experts stressed.

“We have also received reports according to which the sole basis for their conviction is the confessions they were forced to make under torture,” they added. “International law, including the Convention against Torture ratified by the UAE, clearly prohibits the use of any evidence obtained under torture during a trial”.

The UN Special Rapporteurs also condemned the lack of appeal process for convictions and sentences pronounced in first instance by the Federal Supreme Court.

The experts have been in contact with the Emirati authorities to clarify the issues in question, but find the reply unpersuasive.

(*) See the Working Group’s Opinion (51/2015): http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Detention/A.HRC.WGAD.2015_AUV.pdf  

(**) Read the report on UAE by the Special Rapporteur on the independence of the judiciary: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/29/26/Add.2

The UN Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

For more information, log on to:
Arbitrary detention: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/WGADIndex.aspx
Torture: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx
Health: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Health/Pages/SRRightHealthIndex.aspx
Independence of the judiciary: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Judiciary/Pages/IDPIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – United Arab Emirates: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/AEIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Amanda Flores (Tel: + 41 22 917 9186 / aflores@ohchr.org) or Ms. Sonia Cronin (Tel: +41 22 917 9160 / scronin@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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