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UAE: Terminally ill prisoner, Alia Abdulnoor, must be released to “live final days in dignity”, say experts

26 February 2019

GENEVA (26 February 2019) – UN rights experts* urge the United Arab Emirates to release Alia Abdulnoor, who has terminal breast cancer, and is currently detained in Tawam hospital, reportedly subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.

Ms. Abdulnour is reportedly held in a windowless room without ventilation, and is chained to a bed and under armed guard.

“We are extremely concerned about the physical and mental integrity of Ms. Abdulnoor, and about reports that the conditions of detention are causing her unnecessary pain,” the experts said.

She was arrested by State Security authorities on 28 July 2015 and charged with “financing terrorism” after she helped raise funds for needy Syrian families in the UAE and war-affected women and children in Syria. 

According to information received, Ms. Abdulnour was held in secret detention and in solitary confinement for six months. She was subjected to severe physical and psychological humiliation and to threats, and forced to sign a written confession obtained under torture. 

“We would like to remind the United Arab Emirates that torture and ill-treatment is universally and absolutely prohibited and that any statement made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence,” the experts said. 

Ms. Abdulnour’s breast cancer has reached its final stage, and the disease has now spread to vital organs. In November 2018, her deteriorating health condition prompted the authorities to transfer her to Mafraq Hospital.

All requests by Ms. Abdulnour’s family for a medical release have been rejected. The last request submitted a few weeks ago was followed instead by her transfer, on 10 January 2019, from Mafraq to Tawam hospital in Al Ain, where she reportedly continues to be denied appropriate medication to reduce her pain. 

“We call on the authorities to release Ms. Abdulnour and to allow her to live her last days of life in dignity and with her family at home,” said the experts.

“We also call on the State to investigate alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment, and to prosecute the suspected perpetrator(s) in line with its obligations under international human rights law.”


*The UN experts: Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and Fionnuala Ní Aolái, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

The 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.

UN Human Rights, country page – United Arab Emirates

For more information and media requests, please contact: Marina Narvaez (+41 22 917 9615, [email protected]) or Lucía de la Sierra (+41 22 917 9741 / [email protected])

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts: Jeremy Laurence – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / [email protected]

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights