Marking a decade since the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities sentenced 60 members of Emirati civil society to lengthy prison terms in a mass trial, Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:
“Although we are halfway through the year in which the UAE is in the international spotlight through its upcoming hosting of the most important annual climate change conference, COP28, its government has not released any of the 60 Emiratis it unjustly imprisoned in the notorious mass trial of 2013, even though 51 of those detained have completed their sentence.
“Governments that could influence the UAE have stayed disappointingly silent on the need for these prisoners to be immediately released. COP28 will not bring about the ambitious action we need to avoid climate breakdown if it is held in an environment where the host state has laws that restrict the freedom of expression of participants and a track record of throttling civil society.
“The mass trial of 2013 — and the resulting imprisonment of scores of state critics, 24 of whom are prisoners of conscience — has left a stain on the UAE’s human rights record for more than a decade. If governments around the world want to ensure that COP28 is not tarnished by repression and is successful in delivering urgent and effective climate action, they must act now by pressuring the Emirati government to urgently release these prisoners.”
In March 2012, the UAE authorities began a spate of arrests and prosecutions, which eventually led to 94 Emirati nationals being prosecuted in a mass trial that concluded on 2 July 2013. The defendants were charged over links to al-Islah, an organization affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, because, in the words of the indictment, it sought to change the country’s “system of governance”.
Of the 69 individuals convicted, 60 remain in prison, including 51 individuals who have completed their sentences yet remain in detention under the pretext of “counter-extremism counselling”. Fifty-two organizations, including Amnesty International, have issued a petition calling on the UAE to immediately release them and other arbitrarily detained prisoners.
COP28, which is the 28th Conference of the parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, will be held in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December 2023. The conference brings together 198 parties to adopt measures to address the global threat posed by climate change.