Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber (L), President of the COP28 UNFCCC Climate Conference, and Majid Al-Suwaidi, Director General of the COP28, attend a plenary session on day eleven of the UNFCCC COP28 Climate Conference as negotiations go into their final phase on December 11, 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

UAE: New sham trial targeting dissidents during COP28 reveals authorities’ shameless contempt for human rights

Responding to the news that Emirati authorities on 7 December began a new mass trial, prosecuting more than 80 Emiratis, including renowned Emirati human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience – some of whom have already spent a decade behind bars, and are now facing trumped up terrorism charges, Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:

“To begin hearings in a new sham mass trial in the midst of what it billed as ‘the most inclusive COP ever’ is a jaw-dropping show of contempt for human rights by the Emirati authorities. The timing appears to be deliberately intended to send a clear message to the world that it will not tolerate the slightest peaceful dissent and that the authorities have no intention of reforming the country’s dire rights record. 

“COP28 has already laid bare the barriers of fear and legalized repression that smother dissent in the UAE, with no protests permitted in the ‘Green Zone’, which is under purely domestic Emirati jurisdiction, as activists fear the application of laws criminalizing criticism of the government. 

“Since June multiple Emirati activists have informed Amnesty International that many imprisoned dissidents have been cut off from the outside world – the only form of communication allowed being monitored phone calls to ask their families to find them lawyers. The UAE must immediately release all arbitrarily detained prisoners, drop charges against them and end their ruthless assault on human rights and freedoms. It is high time the UAE stopped weaponizing the criminal justice system to eliminate the human rights movement in the country.”


The new mass trial, first reported by the Emirates Detainees Advocacy Center and confirmed to Amnesty International by exiled Emirati activists, is a joint prosecution of over 80 defendants, including past victims of mass trial such as Mohamed al-Siddiq, father of the late, exiled Emirati human rights defender Alaa al-Siddiq; prisoners of conscience such as Khalid al-Nuaimi, Hadef al-Owais, Nasser bin Ghaith, and Sultan al-Qasimi; and long-time Emirati human rights defenders such as Ahmed Mansoor and Mohamed al-Roken.

The UAE does not make public indictments, judgments, or any other official documents relating to politically motivated prosecutions, and its tightly controlled press has to date not reported about the new mass trial. The family of AbdulSalam al-Marzooqi, an already-imprisoned victim of the 2012-2013 mass trial of 94 Emiratis, over a third of whom were signatories to an unprecedented pro-democracy petition, believe that he is among the defendants. His only contact with family was over six months ago asking for a lawyer. The lawyer assigned to him has refused to share any information with the family, saying only that he is forbidden to.

“I’m speechless,” AbdulSalam’s daughter Jenan told Amnesty International, adding: “The UAE finds itself able to commit more and more violations and injustices because no one is holding it accountable.”  She, like the rest of his family, has been stripped of her Emirati nationality and lives in exile.