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Report: Female detainees tortured in UAE prison

A prison cell [Dave Nakayama/Flickr]

Female detainees in Abu Dhabi prisons have been tortured and threatened with rape, a report by the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR) has revealed.

The rights organisation said it had received complaints from female political prisoners in the UAE over the abusive treatment they have received in prison and the conditions under which they are kept in detention by Emirati guards.

Female prisoners, incarcerated under what rights organisations say are dubious terrorism charges, say they have been victims of tortured by their interrogators hired from abroad, denied medical care, suffered verbal and psychological abuse. The victims include a cancer patient who is refused released on health grounds.

In the complaint made by 36-year old Amina Mohammed Ahmed Said Al-Abdouli, the UAE citizen describes her ordeal in a “secret prison” where she said she had been interrogated for months by Nepalese female prison guards “who used all kinds of psychological torture, with verbal insults and threats of arresting [my] female relatives to abuse them”.

Al-Abdouli began a hunger strike as a result of the mistreatment. It lasted three weeks. She complained that she was “deprived of her most basic rights as a female by preventing her from using certain feminine necessities”.

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After 11 weeks in detention and as a result of repeated torture, Al-Abdouli’s health began to deteriorate. The 34-year-old complained about losing sight in one eye. Nevertheless, UAE officials denied her access to a doctor and forced her to sign documents she was not allowed to read.

Al-Abdouli was arrested with her brother Mos’ab and her sister Moza in 2015. According to accounts of their arrests they were forcibly disappeared by undercover state security forces after they raided their house without a warrant. Her oldest brother, Waleed, was later arrested after he publicly condemned the arbitrary detention of his siblings during Friday prayers. All four siblings were held in secret locations and had no access to a lawyer or family visits, in contravention of international law.

Moza, who was 18 at the time of the arrest, was charged for tweets deemed insulting to the UAE authorities and its institutions. Al-Abdouli and her brother Mos’ab where charged in 2016 for their Twitter activity, which was deemed to “damage the reputation of the state” and “incite hatred” by criticising the foreign policies of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Al-Abdouli said she was transferred to Al Wathba prison where she met detainees who were severely mistreated. Female prisoners had their hands and feet tied and were cramped into cells with 80 other women in rooms that are designed for only eight prisoners.

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Alia Abdel Nour was one of the many detainees subjected to abuse and torture, the report added.  The 41-year-old was sentenced to ten years in prison in 2015 for allegedly contacting “terrorist groups” on social media. According to the report, Nour – who suffers from cancer – was “brutally tortured”.

The level of torture and abuse in the UAE has been a major concern for rights group, especially in the past few years where the regime has clamped down on free speech and political opposition. Rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch, have accused the UAE of “systematic torture” in prisons. In many of these cases smuggled handwritten notes and statements are obtained from prisoners documenting widescale torture.

AOHR said that the “spread of the torture epidemic in the UAE is a natural result of the collapse of the judicial system and its inability to achieve any legal remedy for the victims of torture and of enforced disappearance.”

The UK based organisations went on to call on the international community to pressure UAE authorities to release all political detainees in the UAE and to investigate all violations they were subjected to.

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