Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
More than a dozen human rights groups have banded together to urge the leader of the United Arab Emirates to release 10 men who have been imprisoned since 2012 for having spoken against the government.
On Monday, 14 groups – among them Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, CIVICUS, and Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre – sent a joint letter to Emirates president Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, urging him to “treat the issue of prisoners of conscience as a high priority and consider it an urgent humanitarian situation.”
“Your Highness,” the letter reads, “the absence of such policies, rooted in human rights standards, is a stain on the country’s international reputation and runs counter to the Emirati government’s image of the UAE as a country that believes in the values of tolerance and openness. It is the primary responsibility of Your Highness to uphold constitutional principles by putting an end to all human rights violations.”
According to Amnesty International, the 10 men were among 94 initially tried and 69 sentenced to prison for opposing the government. Their jail sentences, handed down following a mass trial, have since ended but the prisoners have not yet been released.
“These men have already spent a decade behind bars for daring to speak out against the Emirati authorities or being perceived as political opposition, and now this injustice is being prolonged past their long-awaited release dates,” Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement. “This is the latest example of how UAE authorities weaponize the justice system, undermine the rule of law, criminalize peaceful dissent, and silence anyone who disagrees with them.”
Like her counterparts in the group of 14, Maalouf demanded swift action.
“UAE authorities must immediately release anyone detained beyond the completion of their prison sentence, and cease the unlawful practice of arbitrarily extending prison terms,” Maaloud said. “This should come hand in hand with an immediate and unconditional release of all those who are detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights.”
Amnesty International reports that an additional 17 dissidents remain in prison after having served out similar sentences that ended in 2017.