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UN condemns UAE's arbitrary detention of human rights defenders

An Emirati flag fluttering above Dubai's marina with the Burj Al Arab landmark hotel (C) in the background, 3 June 2021 [KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images]
An Emirati flag fluttering above Dubai's marina with the Burj Al Arab landmark hotel (C) in the background, 3 June 2021 [KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images]

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, has expressed her grave concern at the long-term detention of five human rights defenders in the United Arab Emirates, describing their imprisonment as arbitrary.

The five human rights activists, Mohamed Al-Mansoori, Hassan Hammad, Hadif Al-Owais, Ali Al-Kindi and Salim Al-Shahhi, are part of a group of 94 lawyers, human rights defenders and academics, called the "UAE94" group, who were sentenced to ten years in prison in July 2013 for plotting to overthrow the government.

In a statement published yesterday by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Lawlor said that their sentences were excessive and stressed that they should never have been detained for legitimately exercising the freedoms that all people are entitled to.

"There are worrying allegations that they are subjected to long periods in solitary confinement, which could amount to torture. Other allegations include authorities turning off the air conditioning as temperatures rose above 40°C, and windows being covered, preventing prisoners from seeing sunlight," said Lawlor.

She added that their trials might have violated their right to a fair trial by denying their access to legal counsel.

The UN rapporteur called on Abu Dhabi to release the human rights defenders immediately in order to continue their meaningful and necessary human rights work.

READ: UN rights expert urges UAE to free jailed activists

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