UAE: Scores convicted in sham mass trial violating fundamental legal principles

**Update: In the evening, local time on 10 July, the UAE’s government news agency issued information on the trial revealing that six of the defendants were companies and that 43 of the defendants were given life sentences. Five more were given 15-year sentences, and another five were given 10-year sentences. The indictment was deemed inapplicable to 24 defendants, whose cases were set aside, and one defendant was acquitted. **

Responding to the news that an Emirati court today convicted scores of defendants, sentencing 40 to life in prison, in a mass trial of 84 after nearly all defendants in the case have already spent 11 years in prison as victims of a previous mass trial, Devin Kenney, Amnesty International’s UAE Researcher, said:

“The UAE must urgently revoke this unlawful verdict and immediately release the defendants. The trial has been a shameless parody of justice and violated multiple fundamental principles of law, including the principle that you cannot try the same person twice for the same crime, and the principle that you cannot punish people retroactively under laws that didn’t exist at the time of the alleged offense. Trying 84 Emiratis at once, including 26 prisoners of conscience and well-known human rights defenders is a scarcely disguised exercise in punishing dissenters that has been further marred by a myriad of fair trial violations, the most serious of which is uninvestigated allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.

The trial has been a shameless parody of justice and violated multiple fundamental principles of law

Devin Kenney, Amnesty International's UAE Researcher

“Defendants have been held in prolonged solitary confinement, deprived of contact with their families and lawyers and subjected to sleep deprivation through continuous exposure to loud music. The defendants and their families, including the families who have hired and are paying exorbitant legal fees for their defence lawyers, are forbidden from receiving the most basic court documents, and family members have repeatedly been denied entrance to the courtroom to observe trial sessions. It is not just the verdict, but the whole case that makes a mockery of the rule of law.

“This case should be the nail in the coffin of the UAE’s attempts to disguise its horrendous human rights abuses behind a progressive façade.”

Background

Authorities launched the new mass trial during COP28, the international climate gathering held in Dubai last year, charging 84 defendants with establishing a “terrorist organization” and supporting and funding this organization. The case had been ongoing since 7 December 2023, yet the UAE only acknowledged the trial was taking place a month after human rights groups and journalists first uncovered and reported it.

The indictment, the charges, the defence lawyers, and even the names of defendants have been kept secret by the government, and are known only partially through leaks. Of the known defendants, 93% (67 out of 72) were already tried on the same accusations in the last mass trial in 2012-2013. Nearly half (34 out of 72) are signatories of the March 2011 pro-democracy petition that set the UAE authorities on their current repressive course. The overwhelming majority (83%, 60 out of 72) were already being detained beyond the expiry of their sentences from the previous mass trial.