Posts Tagged ‘Mohamed Al-Roken’

United Arab Emirates: Dubai Expo continues whitewashing – EU Parliament call for boycott

October 4, 2021

Expo 2020 On 1 October 2021. Human Right Watch published “UAE: Tolerance Narrative a Sham Censorship; Surveillance; Prison or Barred Entry for Critics”. It stated that the United Arab Emirates authorities are using Expo 2020 Dubai to promote a public image of openness that is at odds with the government’s efforts to prevent scrutiny of its rampant systemic human rights violations. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/03/uaes-new-human-rights-institute-sounds-like-a-joke/

Expo 2020 is a prominent global cultural event built on the free exchange of ideas. Domestic critics are routinely arrested and, since at least 2015, UAE authorities have ignored or denied requests for access to the country by United Nations experts, human rights researchers, and critical academics and journalists. The government’s pervasive domestic surveillance has led to extensive self-censorship by UAE residents and UAE-based institutions; and stonewalling, censorship, and possible surveillance of the news media by the government. “Dozens of UAE peaceful domestic critics have been arrested, railroaded in blatantly unfair trials, and condemned to many years in prison simply for trying to express their ideas on governance and human rights,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Expo 2020 is yet another opportunity for the UAE to falsely present itself on the world stage as open, tolerant, and rights-respecting while shutting down the space for politics, public discourse, and activism.” Expo 2020 is being held from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022, with the theme, “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.”

This event, as with other expensive entertainment, cultural, sports, and educational events before it, is designed to promote a public relations image of the UAE as an open, progressive, and tolerant country while its abusive authorities forcefully bar all peaceful criticism and dissent, Human Rights Watch said.

…. Major international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have also faced increased restrictions on their ability to visit and engage with government officials on human rights issues. Staff of both organizations were refused access to prisons and high-profile trials, and eventually admission to the country. UAE authorities have rarely responded to either organization’s requests for information or meetings.

The UAE has embarked on a decades-long effort to whitewash its reputation on the international stage. These efforts were made explicit in the government’s 2017 Soft Power Strategy, which includes cultivating “cultural and media diplomacy” as a central pillar and has a stated objective “to establish [the UAE’s] reputation as a modern and tolerant country that welcomes all people from across the world.” Expo 2020 is the latest in a long list of investments in ambitious cultural and educational projects that seek to further that goal, Human Rights watch said. Others include the acquisition of the Louvre, the Guggenheim, and New York University outposts, establishing Dubai as a luxury tourism destination, and hosting global cultural events such as the 2019 Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi and the upcoming World Expo in Dubai.  

While leading international academic and cultural institutions first established a presence in the UAE with the promise to serve the public good by promoting “ideas, discourse, and critical thinking,” they have since remained silent in the face of increasing repression of basic rights. … Some of those whose communications and devices were targeted by the government surveillance and who are residents of the UAE, were subsequently arrested and abused in detention.Among them is the prominent Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor. [See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/074ACCD4-A327-4A21-B056-440C4C378A1A] A UAE court sentenced Mansoor to 10 years in prison in May 2018 following a grossly unfair trial, partly based on private email exchanges and WhatsApp conversations. A 2016 Citizen Lab report demonstrated five other cases where arrests or convictions of users followed malware attacks against their Twitter accounts from 2012 to 2015. This repressive environment, coupled with the authorities’ use of advanced spyware to target anyone deemed a threat to the country, has led citizens, residents, and even journalists, academics, businessmen, and others who frequent the UAE to warily restrict their public criticism of the authorities. As one journalist said about their office based in Dubai, “The head of office is shit scared of the authorities … There is a practice of holding back stories if they can’t get official comment – which they often can’t. They don’t go hard on the UAE.” Governments and businesses have a human rights responsibility to avoid contributing to UAE authorities’ efforts to whitewash its abuses. As countries prepare to showcase their pavilions at the Dubai EXPO, they should help prevent the UAE’s whitewashing attempts by either advocating for the UAE to unconditionally release all those unjustly detained for exercising their right to free expression and to regularly open up the country, including its jails and its courts, to scrutiny by independent researchers and monitors, or not participate in the EXPO, Human Rights Watch said. “With widespread arrests, intimidation, surveillance, and retaliation that citizens and residents face for speaking out, Expo participants and other countries should raise concerns about rights abuses in the UAE,” ..The HRW report contains a lot more detail about the media repression.

The European Parliament has called on the United Arab Emirates to immediately release three prominent human rights defenders and urged EU member states to boycott next month’s Dubai Expo in order to “signal their disapproval” of rights violations. In a resolution adopted on Thursday, the parliament demanded the “unconditional release” of Ahmed Mansoor, Mohammed al-Roken, and Nasser bin Ghaith, as well as all other Emirati political activists and dissidents. Mansoor was arrested in 2017 on charges of publishing false information and rumours, and using social media to “damage the country’s reputation”.

According to letters that were published online in July, the 52-year-old said he had been held in solitary confinement since his arrest, cut off from the outside world as well as fellow prisoners.

Roken, a university professor and human rights lawyer, was arrested in July 2012, and convicted in July 2013 over charges of “establishing an organisation seeking to bring about the government’s overthrow”. He was sentenced to 10-years in prison and stood trial as part of a group that became known as the “UAE 94”. Former US intelligence officials admit to hacking for UAE at hearing in Virginia. See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/7B69B1D9-E359-444A-B448-02E8B9C0750C

Meanwhile, Ghaith, an economist, and human rights defender was arrested in August 2015 and jailed in March 2017 for 10 years over tweets that criticised Egypt, a key ally of the Gulf country. Ghaith had tweeted a picture of a burnt building in Cairo on 11 August 2015, a few days before the anniversary of the killing of hundreds of protesters in Rabaa square. 

In the resolution, which passed with 383 votes in favour, 47 towards and with 259 abstentions, the parliament criticised Mansoor’s prolonged detention and urged member states to boycott the upcoming World Fair in Dubai.

“In order to signal their disapproval of the human rights violations in the UAE, [the European Parliament] invites the international companies sponsoring Expo 2020 Dubai to withdraw their sponsorship and encourages member states not to participate in the event,” the resolution said.

Dubai has poured billions of dollars into Expo 2020, hoping the exhibition will generate new business and spur its economy amid a slowdown in growth due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Thursday’s strongly-worded resolution also condemned the role the UAE played in the extradition of women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul. Hathloul was kidnapped in the UAE in 2018 and flown into Saudi Arabia against her will, where she faced a trial based on a loosely worded terror law often used to prosecute activists. She was released in February after almost three years in prison but is subject to a five-year travel ban and other restrictions.

On 15 September 2021 the Middle East Monitor has reported that the UAE had placed an additional 4 human rights defenders on its terror list:

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have placed 38 individuals and 15 companies on a terrorism list, saying they are “keen to target networks linked to the financing of terrorism.”

The updated list, issued by the Council of Ministers under Ministerial Resolution No. 83 of 2021, includes the names of four Emirati opposition figures living in exile: Ahmed Al Shaiba Al Nuaimi, Muhammad Saqr Al Zaabi, Hamad Al Shamsi and Saeed Al Tunaiji.

The UAE seeks to curb the political and legal activities of these activists who document human rights violations in the Emirates, WAM reported.

The four opposition activists are believed to be part of a small group that survived the state security apparatus’ 2012 arrest campaign of dozens of academics, lawyers, community leaders and students calling for political reform. However, they were outside the country and then tried in absentia in a case known as the “UAE94”.

The four opposition figures had announced the formation of the “Emirati League Against Normalisation” more than a year ago and issued a statement calling the normalisation agreement with the Israeli occupation a departure from the principles on which the UAE was founded.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/10/01/uae-tolerance-narrative-sham-0

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/uae-european-parliament-release-political-prisoners-boycott-dubai-expo

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20210915-uae-puts-4-human-rights-defenders-on-terror-list/

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/uae-ahmed-mansoor-activist-former-un-official-urges-release

Lawlor urges UAE to free Ahmed Mansoor, Mohamed al-Roken and Nasser bin Ghaith

February 22, 2021

Having just written about a humanitarian award in the Emirates [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/02/22/zayed-award-for-human-fraternity-to-latifa-ibn-ziaten-and-uns-antonio-guterres/] it is appropriate to refer to UN Special rapporteur Mary Lawlor’s assessment that three human rights defenders imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates are being mistreated in conditions that may amount to torture.

Lawyer Mohamed al-Roken, jailed in 2012 in a crackdown on Islamists [https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/7B69B1D9-E359-444A-B448-02E8B9C0750C], rights campaigner Ahmed Mansoor, imprisoned in 2018 for insulting the government [https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/074ACCD4-A327-4A21-B056-440C4C378A1A], and pro-democracy blogger Nasser bin Ghaith, arrested in 2015, are all serving 10-year sentences. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/31/uae-it-is-not-just-ahmed-mansoor-academic-nasser-bin-ghaith-gets-10-year-for-tweets/]

Reports … indicate that the conditions and treatment that these human rights defenders are subjected to, such as prolonged solitary confinement, are in violation of human rights standards and may constitute torture,” said Mary Lawlor,

The UAE government media office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. UAE authorities have previously dismissed such accusations as false and unsubstantiated.

Lawlor described the three rights defenders’ jail sentences as an attempt to silence them and “intimidate and deter others from engaging in this legitimate work“.

The statement said Mansoor went on hunger strike twice in 2019 to protest his conditions, including reportedly being held in a cell measuring four square metres with no mattress, and limited access to sunlight, a shower or portable water.

It said Bin Ghaith went on hunger strike in 2017 and 2018 to protest against being denied access to medication, as well as physical assault by prison authorities and periods in solitary confinement.

https://news.yahoo.com/u-n-rights-expert-urges-141938085.html

The Emirates: not a Paradise for Human Rights Defenders

April 29, 2015
y, Director of the Human Rights Defenders Program at Human Rights First, wrote a good peace in the Huffington Post about the Emirates which he recently visited : “Trouble in Paradise: How U.S. Ally UAE Crushes Dissent” (28 April 2015). Here some excerpts:
PRINCE SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN ZAYED AL NAHYAN
Backed by an impressively lavish lobbying and PR machine — more expensive than any other middle eastern country — the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is eager to show that it’s a safe and stable business environment, and a dependable U.S. military ally….Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Defense Secretary Carter in Washington last Monday to discuss, according to him, “new steps to enhance the already deep security between the U.S. and the UAE.”

Sheikh Mohammed ..is also head of the feared state security system and in recent months, the attacks on dissidents have intensified. In November 2014 the UAE cabinet announced a list of 83 “terrorist organizations.” (these included two American NGOs: the Council on Islamic-American Relations and the Muslim American Society.}

Previously tolerated local civil society organizations have been disbanded, including the Association of Teachers and the Association of Jurists, whose former head, Dr. Mohammed al Roken, is now in prison after being convicted in a mass unfair trial in 2013. Only a tiny handful of dissidents are currently in the country and out of jail including Ahmed Mansoor, just announced as a Final Nominee for the Martin Ennals Human Rights Defender Award 2015. Nearly all peaceful dissent in the UAE is silenced, both on and offline. Abuse of migrant workers’ rights persists, and no labor union is allowed to exist to protect them.

Meeting me in secret this week in the UAE, human rights activists told me there is now a zero tolerance policy for peaceful criticism of the Emirati regime. “It’s got so much worse in the last few years,” said one. “Ten years ago arrests without warrants or disappearances happened but they were rare. Now they’re common.” Even relatives of political prisoners have been targeted in recent months, some hit with arbitrary travel bans that prevent them from leaving the country.

They blame Sheikh Mohammed’s state security for tampering with official government files holding their ID and other information. They said that dates of birth have been changed so that adults are officially registered as children, or other details modified, making it impossible for them to get drivers licenses and other essential documents. This administrative harassment has sent people into an endless bureaucratic loop, preventing them from getting or renewing passports, applying for school, opening bank accounts, and generally operating normal lives. The denial of a security clearance amounts to a denial of a job. Many activists are unable to support themselves financially, some are sleeping rough.

It’s a soft repression but very effective,” one activist told me. “State security basically runs the country, no matter who the official government is. It’s unaccountable, omnipotent, and scares everyone.

Three sisters who were summoned to a police station in Abu Dhabi in mid-February have not been heard from since. The three women are sisters of Issa Khalifa al-Suwaidi, a political prisoner who is serving 10 years in jail. …Crushing dissent in the UAE is typically done in the name of anti-terrorism.

When they meet next month, President Obama should look beyond UAE’s fancy PR campaign and ask Sheikh Mohammed why peaceful critics are in jail, why their lawyers are intimidated from representing them and their witnesses harassed, and why the UAE thinks the best way to fight terrorism is with repression.

Trouble in Paradise: How U.S. Ally UAE Crushes Dissent | Brian Dooley.

Multiple Exposure: Front Line’s video programme for Human Rights Defenders

March 22, 2014


This blog wants keep you informed of what happens to human rights defenders and on what they do to protect the rights of others. I have also a special interest in the power of images in this area.  So, I draw your attention to “Multiple Exposure”  a monthly video magazine broadcast by Front Line Defenders, now in its 5th episode. Segments in the series will offer a behind-the-scenes peek at the difficulty of carrying out human rights work in different countries; more information about trends and political developments that directly impact human rights; and profiles of individual human rights defenders at risk.

Episode 5 covers the finalists of the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders

Pakistan: SAWERA – Recipient of the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk
SAWERA was selected from a total of 110 nominees from 51 countries on the basis of the NGO’s exceptional courage in defending the rights of women and girls in a region where groups working on these issues face extreme risks.
Bangladesh: Adilur Rahman Khan- Finalist of the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award
Adilur Rahman Khan is the Secretary of Odhikar, a human rights organisation founded in 1994 to raise awareness of human rights abuses and to create a vibrant democratic system through election monitoring.

Kenya: Lydia Mukami – Finalist of the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award
Lydia Mukami is the chair of the Mwea Foundation, a grass-roots organisation of rice farmers in the Mwea constituency of Kirinyaga county, in the Central Province of Kenya.

Belarus: Ales Bialiatski – Finalist of the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award
In a country where almost all independent critical voices have been silenced, Ales Bialiatski is one of the few people prepared to champion civil liberties, human rights and the rule of law.

Honduras: Berta Caceres – Finalist of the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award
Berta Caceres is a Lenca indigenous woman who has been on the front lines defending the territory and the rights of the indigenous Lenca people for the last 20 years.

United Arab Emirates: Dr Mohamed Al Roken – Finalist of the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award
Dr Mohamed Al Roken is a leading lawyer and human rights defender in the United Arab Emirates. Despite official hostility and restrictive laws designed to curtail human rights activities, Mohamed has remained a champion of the rule of law and respect for universal human rights.

Multiple Exposure | Front Line.

Number of human rights defenders in detention in Emirates reaches 77

January 7, 2013

On 26 October 2012 I referred in this blog to the controversy raised by a Arab blogger about the status of Human Rights Defenders in the Emirates (UAE) who were described as being in fact intolerant islamists. No enlightening comments were received, so I have to concluded that the attack was a politically motivated defense of government policy. That is this policy is far from HRD friendly is brought home again by a recent press release from the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) which claims that the number of human rights defenders and activists in detention has now reached 77 as the crackdown continues.

On 14 December 2012 an Egyptian journalist was arrested and three Egyptian doctors were arrested four days later (reportedly bringing the total number of Egyptian activists in detention in the UAE to 11).

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights GCHR has issued previous appeals concerning the deteriorating situation in the UAE  (http://gc4hr.org/news/index/country/2). It is reported that approximately 200 people who are supporters or relatives of human rights defenders and activists are being prohibited from travelling.  For many of them it is only when they have attempted to leave the UAE, often having purchased tickets in advance, that they are informed of this restriction on their freedom of movement.

It is feared that more interrogations and arrest will take place in the near future.Some of the detained human rights defenders have had their detention extended, including prominent human rights lawyers Dr. Mohamed Al-Mansoori and Dr. Mohamed Al-Roken, who had their detention extended on 2 January 2013. It is reported that these extensions are granted as officials have, to date, failed to gather evidence to prosecute those detained. The GCHR call for urgent action, see:

Urgent Action: UAE- Number of human rights defenders & activists in detention reaches 77 as brutal crackdown continues.