The UAE has been sharply rebuked by Human Rights Watch (HRW) over its treatment of eight Lebanese nationals who have been detained for more than a year without charge in an unknown location. The men, all Shia Muslims, are said to have been kept in solitary confinement and denied legal counsel.
HRW said that the trial, which began on 13 February, has been marred with violations. Family members told the rights group that the defendants, who face terrorism charges, have been held in prolonged solitary confinement and denied access to their families, legal counsel and the evidence against them. At least three detainees told family members that state security forces forced them to sign statements while blindfolded and under duress, and one said they forced him to sign a blank paper.
Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitson, said: “The UAE authorities reveal in their treatment of these men just how unwilling they are to reform their unjust state security apparatus. These men deserve, at the very least, to be treated humanely and to receive a fair trial.”
Family members have described their fear over the safety of the detainees. “His teeth were all broken, and his ear looked mangled,” a family member said of one detainee. “He said it was from all the beatings he got to the face. He said that after he fell unconscious one time, they continued to kick him. For five days, he wasn’t allowed to sit or to sleep. He was chained and his eyes were covered. Until this day, when he leaves his cell, he is blindfolded.”
The men, according to Dubai based Gulf News are charged with setting up a terrorist cell and planning terrorist attacks in the UAE upon the orders of Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The cell is accused of carrying out a mock attack in a yard close to the facility to test the response of UAE security services to such incidents.
HRW called on UAE security forces to remove the men from solitary confinement, allow them unfettered access to their lawyers, allow their families regular visits, and ensure that the hearing is heard fully in public. The Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeals, where all state security-related cases are heard, should ensure that no statements obtained under duress are used as evidence of guilt, it stressed.