Posts Tagged ‘UAE’

Massive call in support of Ahmed Mansoor at his 50th birthday – How can Emirates remain deaf?

November 5, 2019

Screenshot from Youtube video on Ahmed Mansoor, a Martin Ennals Award Laureate 2015, Youtube/Martin Ennals Foundation

Screenshot from Youtube video on Ahmed Mansoor, a Martin Ennals Award Laureate 2015, Youtube/Martin Ennals Foundation

142 civil society organisations have called upon the UAE government to unconditionally release human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, whose life they believe may be at risk following beatings and hunger strikes to protest his inhumane prison conditions. This statement was originally published on gc4hr.org on 16 October 2019.

Your Excellency, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan,

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has recently announced multiple projects promoting pluralism and tolerance both at home and abroad. 2019 has been declared the ‘Year of Tolerance’ and in 2020, Dubai will host the World Expo trade fair, under the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.’ Upon Dubai’s selection for this exhibition in 2013, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said: “[w]e renew our promise to astonish the world in 2020.” We welcome these public commitments to tolerance and open-mindedness.

It is in this same spirit that we, the undersigned, call upon the UAE government to immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, whose life we believe may be at risk following beatings and hunger strikes to protest deplorable and inhumane prison conditions. The Authorities have convicted and imprisoned him solely for his human rights work and for exercising his right to freedom of expression, which is also protected under the UAE’s Constitution. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience.

Before his imprisonment, Mansoor was known as ‘the last human rights defender left in the UAE’ on account of his fearless work to document human rights violations in the country. His willingness to speak out publicly in defence of human rights on his blog, via social media and in interviews with international media was an example to us all. He is also an engineer, a poet, and a father of four. He is on the advisory boards of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Human Rights Watch and was awarded the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

UAE authorities arrested Mansoor on 20 March 2017 at his home and subjected him to enforced and involuntary disappearance for over six months, with no access to a lawyer and sparse contact with his family, who did not know his exact whereabouts. The authorities held him in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time.

Shortly after his arrest, a group of United Nations human rights experts said that the UAE should release him immediately, describing his arrest as “a direct attack on the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the UAE.” They expressed fear that his arrest “may constitute an act of reprisal for his engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, for the views he expressed on social media, including Twitter.”

A year later, on 29 May 2018, Mansoor was sentenced under vague charges of “insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols, including its leaders”, “publishing false information to damage the UAE’s reputation abroad” and “portraying the UAE as a lawless land.” He received a sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of 1,000,000 UAE Dirhams (US$272,000), three years of probation after completion of his sentence, and confiscation of his electronic devices. On 31 December 2018, the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court upheld his conviction and sentence.

The UAE’s Government actions against Mansoor have been widely criticised. For instance, on 4 October 2018, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning Mansoor’s “harassment, persecution and detention, and calling for his release.” In May 2019, after he ended a month-long hunger strike to protest his unjust conviction and his detention conditions in Al-Sadr prison, a group of UN Special Rapporteurs stated that his conditions of detention “violate[d] basic international human rights standards and risk[ed] taking an irrevocable toll on Mr Mansoor’s health.” In September 2019, Mansoor was severely beaten for continuing his protests and he undertook yet another hunger strike. Nevertheless, he continues to be held in an isolation cell with no running water or bed and is not permitted to leave his cell except for family visits.

In September 2019, the annual report of the UN Secretary General about reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN mechanisms cited Mansoor’s case. This was the fourth time that the Secretary General had denounced reprisals against him, having previously raised concerns in 2014, 2017 and 2018.

It is a tragedy and a disgrace for the UAE that this Tuesday, on 22 October of the UAE’s ‘Year of Tolerance’, Ahmed Mansoor will turn 50, alone in a prison cell in such deplorable conditions, simply for exercising his fundamental right to free speech and for speaking out against human rights violations.

Mansoor’s imprisonment is part of a larger and growing pattern of repression in the UAE. Since 2011, the authorities have embarked on an unprecedented campaign of repression on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association in the country, shrinking the space for peaceful dissent to near-obliteration. Authorities have used privately manufactured technologies, such as those made by NSO Group, for the unlawful targeted surveillance of human rights defenders, including Mansoor, in order to monitor and clamp down on dissent. The authorities have arrested, detained, and prosecuted activists, human rights defenders and other critics of the government, including prominent lawyers, judges and academics, on broad and sweeping national security-related or cybercrime charges and in proceedings that fail to meet international fair trial standards.

The UAE has publicly declared itself a champion of tolerance in the Middle East and the world. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it has an obligation to protect the rights of its citizens and residents. For this reason, we call upon the UAE government to uphold these principles, and to release Ahmed Mansoor without further delay.

Yours sincerely,

https://ifex.org/open-letter-to-the-emirati-authorities-to-free-human-rights-defender-ahmed-mansoor-on-his-50th-birthday/

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/10/uae-global-call-for-release-of-prominent-human-rights-defender-ahmed-mansoor/

Celebrity endorsements and the Dubai Expo: on the one hand and the other

October 26, 2019

Why will.i.am and Mariah Carey should say 'no' to Dubai Expo 

Serial sinner, Mariah Carey [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/10/nicki-minaj-did-the-right-thing-and-cancelled-her-performance-in-saudi-arabia/] performed this week at the one-year countdown to Dubai Expo 2020.  Lyndon Peters argues that celebrities, businesses and governments still have time to take a stand against UAE’s human rights record, and pull their support from Dubai Expo 2020.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan proclaimed 2019 as the ‘Year of Tolerance’, but for many it has been the Year of Intolerance. So far this year, the situation for human rights defenders and political prisoners in the UAE has deteriorated. Over 135 human rights organisations issued a joint call last week for the release of human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor in solitary confinement at Al-Sadr prison, Abu Dhabi [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/01/ahmed-mansoor-goes-on-second-hunger-strike-after-severe-prison-beating/ ].

Nevertheless it seems “The World’s Greatest Show” will go on and with the help of Mariah Carey, will.i.am and Lionel Messi; Dubai Expo 2020 is not short of celebrity endorsements!

That the issue of celebrity endorsements is not an easy is clear [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/11/star-power-and-human-rights-food-for-thought-by-kate-allen/] is clear considering that:
The rapper will.i.am provides the voiceover on an Expo 2020 promotional video in which he reels off a series of great accomplishments in the history of human civilisation. On the other hand, in 2007 ‘will.i.am’, as part of the Black Eyed Peas, recorded a song for a charity album called Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur. Darfuris suffered massacres at the hands of Janjaweed militias. Rebranded as the RSF, former Janjaweed militias, are now a key ally of the UAE within Sudan itself, and have fought as mercenaries for the UAE and Saudi Arabia in Yemen and Libya.

– Meanwhile Lionel Messi is “Proud to be an Expo 2020 Dubai ambassador” and he features in a promotional video for the event. Still, in 2016 he donated $72,000 to the NGO Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF). MSF have provided medical services in various parts of Yemen during the ongoing conflict, and their hospitals have been hit by the airstrikes of the Saudi coalition of which the UAE is a member.That Lionel Messi and will.i.am would promote an event on behalf of the UAE government is unfathomable, especially considering their previous support for Medecins Sans Frontieres and Amnesty International respectively, states Peters.

….

With one year until Dubai Expo 2020, there is still time for trade delegations to reconsider their attendance and for businesses to consider their human rights policies. There is also time for the UAE to stop violating the rights of their own citizens, enforce protections for migrant workers and cease the harmful interventions in Yemen, Libya and Sudan.

https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/comment/2019/10/24/will-i-am-mariah-carey-should-say-no-to-dubai-expo

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

UAE blithely organises short film award on human rights for youth

July 14, 2019

Gulf News (12 July 2019) manages to announce with a straight face that “the fourth edition of the Mansour Bin Mohammad Short Film Award in Dubai is back and UAE’s youth can send their entries until November 7″.

The annual short film award is an initiative by the Community Development Authority (CDA) in Dubai aimed at encouraging creativity and innovation mixing creative media skills and human rights values together…It follows a four-pronged objective: Increase community awareness about human rights; encourage the youth to use their creative skills in highlighting human rights values; develop creative capabilities of the youth in arts, and to establish the values of tolerance, cultural diversity, combating discrimination and extremism among today’s younger generation. ..Maitha Al Shamsi, CEO, Human Rights Sector, CDA, explained that the award has been able to generate key success as an innovative channel that aims to increase awareness of human rights issues while also encouraging young people to express these rights through the use of their creative and artistic skills and talents. Al Shamsi said, “Tolerance has been a long-followed value that the UAE has encouraged since its establishment as a nation. The country is widely known for its promotion of the values of tolerance, peace and respect of others.

This blog alone shows that there is no such reputation, the opposite: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/13/political-prisoners-in-the-emirats-are-detained-indefinitely-even-after-release-date/ and many more: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/uae/

https://gulfnews.com/uae/youth-short-film-competition-in-uae-launched-1.65104056

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

Andrew Anderson: “The Dangerous Game of Sportswashing”

May 22, 2019

On 26 April 2019 Andrew Anderson of Front Line Defenders did – rightly – not mince his words in a piece drawing attention to the growing phenomenon of sports washing. In February 2019 I drew already attention to this in a post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/01/sports-and-human-rights-focus-on-sports-washing-big-names-play-for-big-money/.

Anderson’s “Gloss, Not Glory: The Dangerous Game of Sportswashing” says it more eloquently:

Brutal and corrupt dictatorships trying to use sport to improve their image is nothing new, as The Guardian noted in February when it compared club ownership and the Champions League to Mussolini and the 1934 World Cup. However, the absurd news that the Dakar Rally will take place in Saudi Arabia in 2020 – compounded by reports that an offer is under consideration to bring the Spanish Super Cup to the same country in a €30 million per year, 6-year deal- brings blood drenched sportswashing to new depths.


Protest graffitti against the Formula One race in Bahrain.

As the International Federation for Human Rights reported the Dakar Rally announcement comes not only in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi and amidst Saudi war crimes in Yemen, but as women human rights defenders are being tortured in detention for campaigning, amongst other things, for the right of women to drive. The same Saudi rulers who order the killings and torture are seeking to buy positive coverage through sport. “The same Saudi rulers who order the killings and torture are seeking to buy positive coverage through sport.”

As someone who was at Wembley in 1992 to see Barcelona lift their first European Cup, it is particularly galling to contemplate the Cruyff-inspired masters of the beautiful game being dragged into the sportswashing of Mohammad bin Salman. The Barcelona slogan is “More Than a Club” and is explicitly linked to both values and social change. It is difficult to reconcile these noble aspirations with a PR exercise for a misogynist regime, itself the antithesis of those values.

We are, of course, already far down the slippery slope. The rulers of the UAE have also long-used sport as part of their self-promotion. The owners of Manchester City and the sponsors of Real Madrid are similarly involved in war crimes in Yemen, and routinely detain and torture those who dare to speak out for human rights. Ahmed Mansoor, winner of the Martin Ennals Prize in 2015 for his peaceful work for human rights, is currently on hunger strike in protest against prison conditions and his sentencing to 10 years in prison after an unfair trial. Front Line Defenders is gravely concerned for his health and is calling for his release.

Sunday, 28th April, Formula One will hold the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku. The Azeri dictator, Ilham Aliyev, who routinely detains human rights defenders and journalists, is also President of the country’s Olympic committee. He has embraced sportswashing enthusiastically. Azerbaijan hosted the European Games in 2015 under the auspices of the European Olympic Committees. The 2019 European Games are to be in Belarus. The Formula One calendar also includes Bahrain, Abu Dhabi (UAE) and China, all countries where Front Line Defenders is campaigning for the release of unjustly detained human rights defenders.


Protest against first European Games in Baku in 2015.

Many sports fans will shrug their shoulders and say that money is awash in international sport, and what can you do? The International Olympic Committee and football’s world governing body FIFA have been mired in corruption scandals and the use of international sporting events and national Olympic committees have long been seen by dictators, authoritarians and fascists as tools for advancing propaganda. But it is surely time to draw a line in the sand, and where better to do it than Saudi Arabia? The Dakar Rally should not take place there while women human rights defenders like Lujain Al-Hathloul are detained and tortured. And the Spanish Football authorities must reject the proposed Saudi deal in spite of the vast sums of money on the table.

Sportswashing is more than a game, it is a corrupt exercise of cover-up and repression. And sport must reject the tyrants.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/blog/post/gloss-not-glory-dangerous-game-sportswashing

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