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United Arab Emirates: Advocates of political reform detained in UAE

, Index number: MDE 25/001/2011

Two civil society activists and an economist have been detained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), apparently linked to their calls for political reform. Their lawyer does not know where they are being held. They are likely to be prisoners of conscience.

UA: 111/11 Index: MDE 25/001/2011 UAE Date: 13 April 2011
Two civil society activists and an economist have been detained in the United Arab Emirates
(UAE), apparently linked to their calls for political reform. Their lawyer does not know where they
are being held. They are likely to be prisoners of conscience.
Ahmad Mansoor, a blogger associated with Hewar, an online political forum that is blocked by the UAE authorities,
was detained on 8 April by a group of plain-clothed security officials from Amn al-Dawla, the UAE’s security police,
together with two uniformed police. They took him from his home which they then searched, removing computers,
books and documents. Hours earlier, before dawn, he had received a visit from men who said they were police and
wanted to question him about his car, but he refused to accompany them, suspecting that it was a ruse to detain
him. Reports suggest that the UAE authorities are attributing his arrest to an alcohol offence, saying bottles of
whisky were found in Ahmed Mansoor’s car; however, the real reason for his arrest is believed to be his activism in
supporting calls for political and other change in the UAE. The UAE is a confederation of seven emirates whose
ruling families do not permit direct elections or political parties.
Fahad Salem al-Shehhi, 38, was arrested at his home in Ajman Emirate at 7 pm on 10 April. He too is associated
with the online political forum, Hewar. Nasser bin Ghaith, an economist and lecturer at the Abu Dhabi branch of the
Sorbonne University in Paris, was also detained on 10 April in Dubai. He too has written articles online advocating
political reform in the UAE.
According to three detainees’ lawyer, the authorities said they would produce them at a holding centre in Dubai but
then failed to do so. There are fears that they may be held by Amn al-Dawla in Abu Dhabi and that they are at risk of
torture or other ill-treatment. Their lawyer expressed particular concern for Ahmed Mansoor, who he said had
received death threats and told Amnesty International that he, too, had received death threats via Facebook.
PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Arabic, English or your own language:
Expressing concern about the arrest and detention of Ahmad Mansoor, Fahad Salem al-Shehhi and Nasser bin
Ghaith, all known peaceful advocates of political reform, and asking to be informed of the reasons for their arrest
and their current legal status;
Calling for the three detainees to be released immediately and unconditionally if, as it appears, they are prisoners
of conscience who are being held solely on account of their peaceful expression of their conscientiously held beliefs;
Urging the authorities to immediately disclose their whereabouts, to ensure that they are protected from torture
and other ill-treatment and have access to a lawyer, their families and any medical treatment they might require;
Calling on the authorities to remove restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, association
and assembly, in line with international human rights law and standards.
Vice-President and Prime Minister
Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al-
Maktoum, Co-Chair of the Higher
National Security Council,
Office of the Prime Minister
POB 2838, Dubai, UAE
Fax: +971 4 3531974; Email through
x.html (1st*=Full name;
of Work;5th*=Email;6th*=Type of
Communication select "Suggestion";
Salutation: Your Highness
Minister of Interior
Lt-General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al-
Minister of Interior
Human Rights Directorate
POB: 398, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Fax: +971 4 3981119
Salutation: Your Excellency
And copies to:
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahya
POB 1, Abu Dhabi,
United Arab Emirates
Fax: +971 2 4447766
Salutation: Your Excellency
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.
Date: 13 April 2011
The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates, each governed by an absolute ruler called an amir. The individual
emirates do not hold local elections. Instead, a regionally determined and selected National Electoral Committee elects half the
members of a consultative body, the 40-person Federal National Council (FNC), which sits in Abu Dhabi. The other 20 are
appointed by the president. The term of office is two years. Amongst its limited remit, the FNC can examine and amend federal
legislation but not veto it.
On 9 March, over 130 civil and political rights activists in the UAE petitioned the president of the UAE to introduce universal,
direct elections for the FNC and to give it legislative powers. Ahmed Mansoor had strongly and openly supported the petition and
gave a range of media interviews to support the initiative.
Human Rights Watch, in a statement on 9 April, noted that Ahmed Mansoor is a member of the Middle East and North Africa
advisory committee at the organisation and that HRW “honored and recognized his efforts to promote human rights in the
Emirates at a news conference in Dubai on January 26.” (see: http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/04/09/uae-government-detains-
On 11 April, a Dubai police official was quoted in Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper saying that Ahmed Mansoor was detained
on the authority of the Federal Prosecutor in connection with a ‘criminal case’. However, no details were provided. Amnesty
International believes this to be a pretext to legitimise his arrest.
Ahmed Mansoor, like his lawyer, Abdelhamid al-Kumaitli, has recreived death threats via Facebook. One, according to HRW, was
sent on 5 April and stated: "Ahmed Mansoor, you are dead. I swear that I will search for you in every house. I swear to God that I
will cut you in pieces ... if I don't slaughter you, my cousins will cut your head, you dog."
Ahmed Mansoor and Fahad al-Shehhi were reportedly active in Hewar, an online political forum which is banned in the UAE.
Nasser bin Ghaith is an economics professor at the Abu Dhabi branch of France’s Sorbonne University.
Political suspects in the UAE are commonly held incommunicado in undisclosed locations. Those arrested by Amn al-Dawla are
reportedly often kept in solitary confinement. A few political detainees have been allowed to make brief and limited phone calls
to their families.
Political parties do not exist in the UAE; political dissent is not tolerated and there are severe restrictions on freedom of
expression and association. Websites have been targeted for closure and their owners prosecuted for defamation.
The use of torture of political detainees has been widely reported. Methods have included sleep deprivation, suspension by the
wrists or ankles followed by severe beatings to the soles of the feet and even the use of electric shocks to various parts of the
The UN Human Rights Committee has commented that routine prolonged solitary confinement is inconsistent with the obligation
on states to ensure prisoners are treated with humanity and with respect for their inherent dignity. (General comment 21/44, 6
April 1992).
UA: 111/11 Index: MDE 25/001/2011 Issue Date: 13 April 2011

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