The UAE intensified its mistreatment of human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor following the publication of his prison letter by regional media in July 2021, revealing details of the unfair trial and the abuse he has been subjected to since he was incarcerated in 2018, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) said today.
UAE authorities reacted angrily to the letter's publication and moved 53-year-old Mansoor to a smaller and more isolated cell. They denied him access to critical medical care, and confiscated his reading glasses, according to informed sources cited by HRW and GCHR.
Mansoor has been held in the notorious Al-Sadr Prison near Abu Dhabi serving a ten-year prison sentence handed down on 29 May 2018 by the State Security Chamber of the Abu Dhabi Court of Appeals following a grossly unfair trial on spurious charges. For his non-violent call for political reform, he was charged with "insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols."
In the July letter Mansoor revealed extensive details about his case and the grave violations by the UAE's state security agency to which he has been subjected since his arrest and detention. He noted that the charges brought against him include his participation in a Twitter campaign on arbitrary detention in Saudi Arabia organised by Al-Karama. Mansoor claims that his involvement in the affair consisted of a picture of him holding a paper, on which he wrote in Arabic and English: "Saudi Arabia without arbitrary arrest."
In the three years since his incarceration there has been an international campaign demanding Mansoor's release and for the international community to intervene on his behalf.
"Allies have been helping to promote the UAE's narrative of a tolerant and culturally open country while ignoring rampant abuses, including the legal railroading and ghastly mistreatment of one of its most respected citizens," said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW. "The UN Human Rights Council should not keep silent while its member, the UAE, flagrantly violates human rights standards and blocks UN and other international and independent monitors from accessing its prisons."
The UAE's mistreatment of Mansoor is part of a wider crackdown on human rights activists in the Gulf. Since 2011, when the UAE began a sustained assault on freedom of expression and association, HRW and GCHR have repeatedly documented serious allegations of abuse at the hands of state security forces against dissidents and activists who have spoken up about human rights issues.
The most egregious abuses are arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and torture. The UAE has arrested and prosecuted scores of lawyers, judges, teachers and activists and shut down key civil society associations and the offices of foreign organisations promoting democratic rights, effectively crushing any space for dissent.
HRW and GCHR urged governments to uphold their duty to defend human rights and to avoid contributing to UAE authorities' efforts to whitewash its abuses, including its cruel and unjust imprisonment of Mansoor and others detained solely for exercising their right to free expression. "As countries showcase their pavilions at the Dubai Expo, they should advocate for the UAE to unconditionally release all those unjustly detained for exercising their right to free expression", Human Rights Watch and GCHR said.