UAE: End downward cycle of unfair political trials

Twenty Egyptians and 10 nationals from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) charged in connection with setting up an “international” branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UAE, are at risk of being wrongfully convicted following a grossly unfair trial marred by a catalogue of human rights violations, said Amnesty International. All 10 UAE nationals were already tried and convicted in July 2013 following an unfair trial in a separate case.

A verdict in the case against the men is expected to be delivered on Tuesday 21 January. They are also accused of other vague national security charges including stealing and distributing secret information from the security services or failing to notify the authorities about the theft.

“The list of failings in the trial so far has been astonishing. Arrests without judicial warrants, allegedly falsified arrest dates in court documents; months of secret detention and solitary confinement with no access to a lawyer; show that the fundamental rights of the defendants have been completely disregarded. Some of the men also claimed in court that they had been tortured while in custody,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“The downward cycle of unfair political trials in the UAE must end. The authorities must conduct a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into any allegations of torture or ill-treatment committed without delay.”

If convicted, the defendants will also have no right to appeal contrary to the UAE’s obligations under international law. 

“We urge the UAE authorities to review the very basis of the men’s arrest. The vague charges do not appear to constitute internationally recognizable criminal offences. End this charade and give these men a fair trial,” said Said Boumedouha.

The authorities must also redress the glaring absence of due process witnessed in the recent cycle of political trials in the UAE. They must introduce the right of appeal to cases heard under state security rules. All verdicts must also be based on solid evidence.

“We fear that those on trial are being held merely for their political and human rights beliefs and for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. It is inexplicable that the country awarded the 2020 Expo is quickly acquiring a reputation as a country of serial unfair political trials,” said Said Boumedouha.

All defendants in this trial have denied in court the charges against them. 

The men were reportedly held incommunicado in secret detention for several months, some for up to a year before the trial began. Many told the court that they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated, including with the use of electric shocks. Others said they had been forced to sign “confessions” admitting their guilt.  

Amnesty International considers at least three of the prisoners – Mohammed al-Mansoori, Hussain Ali Alnajjar Alhammadi and Saleh Mohammed al-Dhufairi – to be prisoners of conscience held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. The organization is calling for them to be released immediately and unconditionally. 

A relative of one of the defendants told Amnesty International last week of inhumane treatment at al-Razeen Prison in Abu Dhabi, where a number of the detainees are being held. Prison guards there have conducted sudden night time raids on prison cells.  

The 10 UAE nationals were convicted in July 2013 along with 59 others during a mass trial that became known as the “UAE 94” trial in which activists were accused of trying to overthrow the government. 

That trial was also marred by concerns over allegations of torture and ill-treatment of the defendants who were also denied access to their lawyers for many months.

At least four of those convicted had been identified by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience, including human rights lawyer Dr Mohammed al-Roken. Their families have also been harassed.