Seventy-six global rights organisations yesterday called on the United Arab Emirates to release human rights defenders and activists.
In a letter addressed to UAE ruler Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, the organisations said: "Approaching ten years behind bars, the group of pro-democracy advocates, known as the "UAE 94", remain unjustly jailed for signing an online petition calling for political reform in 2011. Following a grossly unfair mass trial, 69 members of the UAE 94 were sentenced to between seven and 15 years, including eight in absentia."
They went on to "call on the UAE authorities to comply with international standards for prisoners, including by allowing regular family visits, access to healthcare and regular consultations with their lawyers, and ending the practice of holding them in solitary confinement."
The call comes as the UAE launches Dubai Expo 2020, which will continue for six months. The rights groups urged the Emirates to release the activists during the Expo in order to "demonstrate their commitment" to its motto "Connecting Minds and Creating the Future through sustainability, mobility and opportunity".
The letter was signed by 76 organisations including Action by Christians against Torture (ACAT), International Campaign for Freedom in the United Arab Emirates (ICFUAE), ALQST for Human Rights, Amnesty International, FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Human Rights Watch (HRW).
For years, the UAE has been facing criticism for imprisoning hundreds of peaceful human rights defenders and politicians because of their demands for political reforms that pave the way for holding democratic elections. Authorities, however, deny any rights abuses and affirm their commitment to respecting freedoms.