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UAE: UN expert condemns long-term detention of human rights defenders

GENEVA (10 June 2021) – A UN expert has expressed serious concern at the long-term imprisonment of five human rights defenders in the United Arab Emirates and has urged the Government to release them immediately.

Mr. Mohamed al-Mansoori, Mr. Hassan Mohammed Al-Hammad, Mr. Hadif Rashed Abdullah al-Owais, Mr. Ali Saeed Al-Kindi and Mr. Salim Hamdoon Al-Shahhi are part of the so-called “UAE94”, a group of 94 lawyers, human rights defenders and academics who were sentenced to 10 years in prison in July 2013 for plotting to overthrow the Government.

The proceedings against them were initiated in the context of an escalated crackdown by the authorities of the United Arab Emirates against individuals and organisations calling for peaceful political reform.

“Their sentences were excessively severe and their detentions have been declared arbitrary according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,” said Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. “They should have never been detained in the first place for legitimately exercising the freedoms that all people are entitled to. 

“There are worrying allegations that they are subjected to long periods in solitary confinement, which could amount to torture,” Lawlor said. Other allegations include authorities turning off the air conditioning as temperatures rose above 40°C, and windows being covered, preventing prisoners from seeing sunlight.

Lawlor said that their trials might have violated their right to a fair trial, denying or severely limiting their access to legal counsel, including during interrogations.

“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 expert is in contact with the authorities on this matter.

Lawlor’s call is endorsed by Ms. Elina Steinerte (Chair), Ms. Miriam Estrada-Castillo (Vice-Chair), Ms. Leigh Toomey, Mr. Mumba Malila and Ms. Priya Gopalan, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.


Ms Mary Lawlor, (Ireland) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. She is currently an Adjunct Professor of Business and Human Rights in Trinity College Dublin. She was the founder of Front Line Defenders - the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. As Executive Director from 2001-2016, she represented Front Line Defenders and had a key role in its development. Ms. Lawlor was previously Director of the Irish Office of Amnesty International from 1988 to 2000, after becoming a member of the Board of Directors 1975 and being elected its President from 1983 to 1987.

Special Rapporteurs 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 that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests please contact Orsolya Toth (+41 22 917 9913 / ototh@ohchr.org) or write to defenders@ohchr.org

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org), Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 22 917 7578 / jlaurence@ohchr.org) and Kitty McKinsey (kmckinsey@ohchr.org).

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