UAE: Nearly a decade of unjust imprisonment for ‘UAE-94’ dissidents

The UAE must end its arbitrary detention of 60 individuals – including activists, lawyers, students and teachers – convicted on trumped-up charges following an unfair mass trial known as the “UAE-94” case, Amnesty International said today, marking the eight-year anniversary since the trial’s verdict in July 2013 and the ninth year in prison for the detainees, who were arrested in 2012. 

Amnesty International interviewed family members of six “UAE-94” prisoners who described how they and their imprisoned loves ones have suffered over the past nine years, with some of the prisoners held incommunicado for years and relatives subjected to acts of reprisal. 

The recent death of Alaa al-Siddiq, killed in a car accident on 19 June 2021 in the UK, brought into sharp focus the plight of families who have been unjustly separated from their loved ones for almost a decade. Alaa al-Siddiq, executive director of ALQST, a leading NGO highlighting human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, was also the daughter of “UAE-94” prisoner Mohamed al-Siddiq.

“The ‘UAE-94’ prisoners have unjustly languished behind bars for over nine years now, with some not allowed to see or speak to their families for years on end,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“The devastating effects of this cruel policy have become all the more clear with the death of Alaa al-Siddiq, the daughter of ‘UAE-94’ prisoner Mohamed al-Siddiq – who died without having spoken to her father in  three years because authorities cut off contact,” said Lynn Maalouf.

The ‘UAE-94’ prisoners have unjustly languished behind bars for over nine years now, with some not allowed to see or speak to their families for years on end
Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International

The imprisonments resulting from the mass trial are arbitrary because trying so many defendants at the same time makes it difficult to adhere to international fair trial standards, because the charges were based on overly broad and vague legal language that does not adequately define an international crime, and because the proceedings were marred at every stage by failure to respect basic legal principles such as presenting warrants, the prompt presentation of detainees to a court, and fair hearing of the defendants’ evidence. Many of the defendants were imprisoned solely for peaceful expression of political opinion. Amnesty International issued a full report documenting the violations of the right to fair trial in 2014, and the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found that all defendants in the case are arbitrarily detained. 

The Emirati government stripped Alaa al-Siddiq and her nine siblings of their citizenship in March 2016, telling the UN that it had “withdrawn” their citizenship because the father’s citizenship had been “revoked”. Alaa al-Siddiq fled to Qatar in 2012 and then moved to the UK in 2019.

Mohamed al-Siddiq was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the “UAE-94” trial. Prior to his conviction he was also stripped of his nationality in December 2011, after signing a petition calling for democratic reforms. The authorities said they revoked his nationality because he was linked to “suspect regional and international organizations and personalities”.

Before her death, Alaa al-Siddiq had told Amnesty International that no one in her immediate family had been able to speak to her father, Mohamed al-Siddiq, since 2018, when the government cut off all their communication with him.

Mohamed al-Siddiq’s son-in-law Omran al-Rudwan was also convicted in the trial. Despite completing his seven-year prison sentence in 2019, the authorities continue to detain him in al-Razeen prison under the counter-terrorism law, which allows the state to indefinitely detain anyone “adopting extremist or terrorist thought”. The government has released other Emirati prisoners in this category after they gave video-recorded statements -  so-called “confessions” - which were posted on pro-government social media.

The family of “UAE-94” prisoner Hasan al-Jaberi told Amnesty International that in December 2019, the UAE halted all his family visits and prevented him from calling his family for more than six months. He was permitted to call his family several times in July and August 2020, but since then has been held incommunicado. He and his brother, Husain, both former government employees, were sentenced to 10 years in prison in the “UAE-94” trial and the government stripped both of their nationalities in December 2011.

In January 2017, the Federal Authority for Identity & Citizenship called the family of “UAE-94” prisoner AbdulSalam al-Marzooqi, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence, and informed them that it had revoked the nationality of all his children. effectively rendering them stateless. 

“The 60 men still held from the ‘UAE-94’ trial have spent almost a decade in prolonged, unjust imprisonment. They have been held incommunicado, and denied their rights,” said Lynn Maalouf.

“Instead of continuing to punish them and their families, the UAE must quash the convictions and release the victims of this grossly unjust mass trial and reinstate arbitrarily revoked nationalities to both prisoners and their families,” said Lynn Maalouf.

Background

In July 2013, 69 men were convicted in a grossly unfair mass trial of plotting to overthrow the UAE government. They received lengthy prison terms of up to 15 years. The trial was deeply flawed, with defendants held incommunicado for periods of up to a year and several stating that they were tortured to “confess”.