Posts Tagged ‘Ahmed Mansoor’

UAE: whitewashing specialists get help from the UK

September 14, 2019

Aimed at students aged between 16 and 18, guidelines for entrants urge them to consider “What can the world learn from the UAE’s model for tolerance?” and “How does the Year of Tolerance reflect the already established values of diversity within the UAE?”

UAE launches ‘pledge of tolerance’ despite continued crackdown on dissent

But the guidelines also tell entrants that they must abide by media laws in the UAE, which forbid criticism of the Emirati government and ruling families, its monarchical system, political decisions or “defaming public officials”. Earlier this year, the UAE upheld a 10-year jail sentence for Ahmed Mansoor, an Emirati blogger, for “insulting the UAE’s leaders online.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/13/political-prisoners-in-the-emirats-are-detained-indefinitely-even-after-release-date/]

Hiba Zayadin, a Gulf Rights expert for Human Rights Watch, criticised the British government for its participation in this initiative and said it was “helping whitewash” the UAE government. “It is not just ironic to host such an initiative in one of the world’s most repressive countries, but downright irresponsible,” Zayadin told Middle East Eye. “The UAE is a country where the red lines are constantly shifting, and where journalists, academics and critics have been targeted, harassed, threatened, and jailed simply for expressing their opinions.” She added: “By launching such an initiative, the British embassy is not supporting the growth of journalism around the world so much as it is helping to whitewash a repressive regime’s near-obliteration of the space for free speech.”

Press freedom in the UAE has been a constant source of criticism for the Emirates. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked the UAE at 133rd in its 2019 Press Freedom Index and described the country as the “masters of the online surveillance of journalists”.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/uk-under-fire-launching-uae-press-scheme

UAE finally free Osama al-Najjar after detaining more than five years.

August 9, 2019

Osama Al-Najjar remained in detention, despite completing his jail sentence. Photo Credit: activist’s Twitter account

On 9 August 2019 Global Voices reports that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have freed activist and political prisoner Osama al-Najjar after detaining him for more than five years. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/13/political-prisoners-in-the-emirats-are-detained-indefinitely-even-after-release-date/]

”Two other detainees, Badr al-Bahri and Othman al-Shehi, whose initial sentences expired in April 2017 and July 2018 respectively, have also been freed”, the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) said in a statement. Al-Bahri and al-Shehi were arrested over their links to al-Islah, which was a legally registered Islamist political movement in the UAE before it was banned by authorities in 2014.

Many political prisoners remain in detention in the UAE, despite repeated calls from human rights groups for their release. Prominent human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor is currently serving a ten-year jail sentence over comments he posted online. Prior to his arrest in March 2017, he campaigned online on behalf of jailed activists in the UAE, including Osama al-Najjar. Academic Nasser Bin Ghaith is also serving a ten-year jail sentence over tweets critical of the UAE authorities. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ahmed-mansoor/]

UAE frees activist Osama al-Najjar after 5 years in detention

Political prisoners in the Emirats are detained indefinitely even after release date

June 13, 2019

The London-based International Campaign for Freedom in the United Arab Emirates (ICFUAE) said the prisoners were being held in a so-called ‘counselling section’ inside al Razeen prison, a desert facility around 120 kilometres from the capital, Abu Dhabi. ICFUAE said prisoners including Osama al Najjar, Badr al Bahri, Ahmed Almolla, Faysal, Othman and Abdelwaheed Elshoh, Abdullah Elhelw, Said Elbrimy and Kalifa Rabiaa, had finished their sentences but were still being held indefinitely. The UAE claims that the purpose of the ‘counselling’ facilities is to rehabilitate convicts.

“These prisoners’ continued detention exposes the UAE’s Year of Tolerance as little more than a cynical PR stunt,” ICFUAE said in a statement. Joe Odell of ICFUAE told TRT World there was no real justification for the UAE to continue to hold the men. “These men have served their time, any further imprisonment plainly violates their most basic human rights,” he said. “Instead of being returned to their families, they’re languishing in the UAE’s most notoriously repressive prison, with no end in sight,” he added.

[In May, UN Human Rights experts spoke out against the continued detention of activist Ahmed Mansoor, who was jailed for tweets raising awareness of another activist’s detention. The experts said that the conditions of Mansoor’s imprisonment, which included solitary confinement, could constitute torture. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/10/mea-laureate-ahmed-mansoor-on-hunger-strike-in-emirates/]

Source: TRT World

Beyond WhatsApp and NSO – how human rights defenders are targeted by cyberattacks

May 14, 2019

Several reports have shown Israeli technology being used by Gulf states against their own citizens (AFP/File photo)

NSO Group has been under increased scrutiny after a series of reports about the ways in which its spyware programme has been used against prominent human rights activists. Last year, a report by CitizenLab, a group at the University of Toronto, showed that human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were targeted with the software.

In October, US whistleblower Edward Snowden said Pegasus had been used by the Saudi authorities to surveil journalist Jamal Khashoggi before his death. “They are the worst of the worst,” Snowden said of the firm. Amnesty International said in August that a staffer’s phone was infected with the Pegasus software via a WhatsApp message.

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Friedhelm Weinberg‘s piece of 1 May is almost prescient and contains good, broader advice:

When activists open their inboxes, they find more than the standard spam messages telling them they’ve finally won the lottery. Instead, they receive highly sophisticated emails that look like they are real, purport to be from friends and invite them to meetings that are actually happening. The catch is: at one point the emails will attempt to trick them.

1. Phishing for accounts, not compliments

In 2017, the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, documented what they called the “Nile Phish” campaign, a set of emails luring activists into giving access to their most sensitive accounts – email and file-sharing tools in the cloud. The Seoul-based Transitional Justice Working Group recently warned on its Facebook page about a very similar campaign. As attacks like these have mounted in recent years, civil society activists have come together to defend themselves, support each other and document what is happening. The Rarenet is a global group of individuals and organizations that provides emergency support for activists – but together it also works to educate civil society actors to dodge attacks before damage is done. The Internet Freedom Festival is a gathering dedicated to supporting people at risk online, bringing together more than 1,000 people from across the globe. The emails from campaigns like Nile Phish may be cunning and carefully crafted to target individual activists.. – they are not cutting-edge technology. Protection is stunningly simple: do nothing. Simply don’t click the link and enter information – as hard as it is when you are promised something in return.

Often digital security is about being calm and controlled as much as it is about being savvy in the digital sphere. And that is precisely what makes it difficult for passionate and stressed activists!

2. The million-dollar virus

Unfortunately, calm is not always enough. Activists have also been targeted with sophisticated spyware that is incredibly expensive to procure and difficult to spot. Ahmed Mansoor, a human-rights defender from the United Arab Emirates, received messages with malware (commonly known as computer viruses) that cost one million dollars on the grey market, where unethical hackers and spyware firms meet. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/08/29/apple-tackles-iphone-one-tap-spyware-flaws-after-mea-laureate-discovers-hacking-attempt/]

Rights defender Ahmed Mansoor in Dubai in 2011, a day after he was pardoned following a conviction for insulting UAE leaders. He is now in prison once more.

Rights defender Ahmed Mansoor in Dubai in 2011. Image: Reuters/Nikhil Monteiro

3. Shutting down real news with fake readers

Both phishing and malware are attacks directed against the messengers, but there are also attacks against the message itself. This is typically achieved by directing hordes of fake readers to the real news – that is, by sending so many requests through bot visitors to websites that the servers break down under the load. Commonly referred to as “denial of service” attacks, these bot armies have also earned their own response from civil society. Specialised packages from Virtual Road or Deflect sort fake visitors from real ones to make sure the message stays up.

 

A chart showing how distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks have grown over time.

How distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks have grown. Image: Kinsta.com; data from EasyDNS

Recently, these companies also started investigating who is behind these attacks– a notoriously difficult task, because it is so easy to hide traces online. Interestingly, whenever Virtual Road were so confident in their findings that they publicly named attackers, the attacks stopped. Immediately. Online, as offline, one of the most effective ways to ensure that attacks end is to name the offenders, whether they are cocky kids or governments seeking to stiffle dissent. But more important than shaming attackers is supporting civil society’s resilience and capacity to weather the storms. For this, digital leadership, trusted networks and creative collaborations between technologists and governments will pave the way to an internet where the vulnerable are protected and spaces for activism are thriving.

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The Emirates trying to do good with one hand but what horror with the other!

May 8, 2019

The two faces of the UAE on human rights:

While major NGOs are involved in a campaign to save the life of human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, Sharjah – the third largest and third most populous city in the United Arab Emirates – launches an international award for refugee work.

Update 6 May 2019:  Ahmed Mansoor remains in isolation in Al-Sadr prison in Abu Dhabi with no bed or water, despite an unconfirmed report that he may have ended his hunger strike recently. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/10/mea-laureate-ahmed-mansoor-on-hunger-strike-in-emirates/

Mansoor is being kept in an isolation ward in Al-Sadr prison in Abu Dhabi, where he is being held in “terrible conditions” in a cell with no bed, no water and no access to a shower. His health has deteriorated significantly, and he is in bad shape, moving slowly when he is allowed out of his cell. He is not allowed to have regular family visits, another reason he started his hunger strike in mid-March. The NGOs – Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), ARTICLE 19, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), CIVICUS, English PEN, FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Front Line Defenders (FLD), the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), IFEX, International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), Martin Ennals Foundation, PEN International and Reporters Without Borders (RSF)- call on the UAE to immediately and unconditionally release Ahmed Mansoor, and other unlawfully detained human rights defenders.

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MEA laureate Ahmed Mansoor on hunger strike in Emirates

April 10, 2019

Award-winning rights human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, jailed in the UAE for “publishing false information”, has launched a in protest against prison conditions, International said Tuesday. Mansoor, whom says is a prisoner of conscience, has been on for over three weeks to protest detention conditions and his unfair trial in the UAE. the London-based group noted. For more on Mansoor see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/02/happy-new-year-but-not-for-ahmed-mansoor-and-nabeel-rajab-in-the-gulf-monarchies/

https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/jailed-uae-activist-mansoor-on-hunger-strike-amnesty-119040901441_1.html

The ISHR launched a campaign in support: https://us1.campaign-archive.com/?u=97549cf8cb507607389fe76eb&id=229155ca04&e=d1945ebb90

The Pope’s visit does not make the UAE a tolerant state

February 5, 2019

Pope Francis is on a visit to the United Arab Emirates. Although the country is considered relatively religiously tolerant for the region, Human Rights Watch’s Wenzel Michalski says it harshly cracks down on dissent. (Deutsche Welle interview)

Papst Franziskus in Abu Dhabi (Reuters/A. Jadallah)

DW: Pope Francis is on a trip to a country that has earned the reputation as a relatively tolerant state, especially in regard to religion. The claims are that different religions get along well with each other and that the coexistence of ethnic groups is peaceful. One could think that all sounds progressive.

Wenzel Michalski: Yes, that is the reputation they have acquired. But is not true, and that they enjoy such a reputation is completely unjustified. The UAE is not a tolerant state. There are massive violations of human rights, especially when it comes to free speech and freedom of assembly. Those who exercise their rights risk landing in jail. Recently two prominent human rights defenders were sentenced to 10 years in prison: One for criticizing Egypt and the other for speaking out against the general human rights situation in the country. The state is taking severe and brutal action against opponents and critics. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/02/happy-new-year-but-not-for-ahmed-mansoor-and-nabeel-rajab-in-the-gulf-monarchies/]

Human Rights Watch is also critical of a law passed in 2014 that gives the state legal grounds to take action against critics and dissidents.

Wenzel Michalski of Human Rights Watch (DW/H. Kiesel)

Wenzel Michalski is the director of Human Rights Watch in Germany

Yes, the state’s fear of criticism must be extreme so that anyone who dares to criticize the political situation or human rights in the country can be now defamed as a “terrorist” and therefore can face correspondingly harsh punishments.

It seems more and more that countries in the region have deliberately blurred laws on the basis of which dissidents can be defamed as “terrorists.”

Unfortunately, this is a trend in many countries in the Middle East, but also increasingly in Southeast Asia, Russia and, of course, China, where nearly identical laws and regulations are used to nip any criticism in the bud.…..

https://www.dw.com/en/human-rights-watch-the-uae-is-not-a-tolerant-state/a-47359439

Mary Robinson cancels appearance at Dubai festival over Ahmed Mansoor’s continued detention

January 15, 2019

On 14 January 2019 the Middle East Eye reported that former UN  High Commissioner, Mary Robinson, has confirmed she will not attend a Dubai literary festival in response to a call from academics and authors for the United Arab Emirates to release detained human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor. In a statement to The Guardian, the Mary Robinson Foundation said: “In response to the open letter received by the Guardian, Mrs Robinson has advised the organisers that she will not be attending the literature festival.” [see my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/02/happy-new-year-but-not-for-ahmed-mansoor-and-nabeel-rajab-in-the-gulf-monarchies/]

The letter, organised by the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE), calls on the Emirati authorities to “immediately and unconditionally release prisoner of conscience Ahmed Mansoor“. It was signed by academics, activists, British politicians, and comedians, including linguist Noam Chomsky and actor Stephen Fry.

Joe Odell, a campaigns manager for ICFUAE, said: “We urgently call on other attendees to follow suit. The festival claims to celebrate freedom of expression, yet so many in the UAE have been detained for exercising this very right,” Other prominent writers billed to speak at the festival include Oxford University professor Peter Frankopan, Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland, and author Ian Rankin.

Robinson’s decision to withdraw from the festival may also be linked to a controversy surrounding her in relation to Sheikha Latifa al-Maktoum, the daughter of the Emirati Prime Minister.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/mary-robinson-cancels-appearance-dubai-festival-over-jailed-uae-activist-840835552

Happy New Year, but not for Ahmed Mansoor and Nabeel Rajab in the Gulf monarchies

January 2, 2019

First of all I wish my readers a happy 2019. Unfortunately this year augurs badly for two human rights defenders who have figured frequently in this blog: Ahmed Mansoor [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ahmed-mansoor/] and Nabeel Rajab [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/01/20/video-statement-of-troublemaker-nabeel-rajab-who-is-on-trial-today/]. Courts in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Monday upheld the convictions of these two prominent human rights defenders serving lengthy prison terms for expressing anti-government dissent on social media. They have no right to further appeal. On 4 January 2019 there UN joined the critics of these sentences.

Nabeel Rajab, Final Nominee MEA 2012

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/uae-and-bahrain-uphold-stiff-prison-sentences-for-human-rights-activists/2018/12/31/a31a3cf2-0d1b-11e9-8f0c-6f878a26288a_story.html?utm_term=.b3d062a3f670

http://icfuae.org.uk/news/uae-10-year-prison-sentence-upheld-ahmed-manoo

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/ahmed-mansoor

https://www.denverpost.com/2018/12/31/emirati-court-upholds-10-year-sentence-against-cu-boulder-grad-for-criticizing-government/

https://www.ifex.org/bahrain/2018/12/31/nabeel-condemn-sentence-upheld/

https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/01/1029832

Emirates (Mansoor) and UK (Hedges): finally someone made the point

December 6, 2018

On 4 December 2018 Jonathan Emmett wrote in a post about something that I had been wondering for weeks: “Are UK authors only prepared to defend the rights of people like themselves?”. Totally correct:

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