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UAE continuing its 'sustained assault on human rights' ahead of COP28, 42 rights groups warn

May 2, 2023 at 3:53 pm

The first preparatory event of the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP28 UAE) which will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in November, starts, on March 15, 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates [Waleed Zein – Anadolu Agency]

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have joined 40 other rights groups to express their “deep concern” over the UAE’s “sustained assault on human rights and freedoms” as the Gulf state prepares to host the 28th United Nations global climate talks (COP28)  later this year.

“For more than 10 years, UAE authorities have been unjustly detaining at least 60 Emirati human rights defenders, civil society activists, and political dissidents who were arrested in 2012 because of their demands for reform and democracy,” a joint statement released yesterday said.

“More than three-quarters of these prisoners have completed their sentences yet remain in arbitrary detention to date. UAE authorities refuse to release them, alleging that they continue to pose a “terrorist threat,” based on vague laws that allow their indefinite detention, in flagrant violation of international human rights law.”

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The detainees, they added, include activists, academics, lawyers, university professors and royal family members. While their detention and the use of the criminal justice system as a tool to eliminate the human rights movement have “led to the closure of civic space, severe restrictions on freedom of expression, both online and offline, and the criminalization of peaceful dissent.”

Even the families of detainees have not been spared, the statement highlighted, “In some cases, the UAE authorities have arbitrarily revoked the citizenship of detainees and their families, depriving them of their rights as Emirati nationals and leaving them stateless. In other cases, the authorities have imposed travel bans on their family members, prevented them from studying or working, and frozen their bank accounts.”

As the UAE will host the 28th United Nations global climate talks (COP 28) from 30 November to 12 December 2023, we express our deep concern over the human rights situation in the country, particularly the severe restrictions imposed by the authorities on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which seriously undermine the work of civil society and the space for political dissent in the country.

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“Civil society groups fear that the severe restrictions imposed by the UAE authorities in recent years will hinder the full and meaningful participation of journalists, activists, human rights defenders, civil society, youth groups, and indigenous peoples’ representatives at COP28,” the rights groups warned. While the UAE could use its position as host of COP28 to whitewash its abuses, the rights group added, by promoting “an image of openness and tolerance”.

Signatories include ALQST for Human Rights, the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR UK), Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre (EDAC), Emirates Centre for Human Rights, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, Egyptian Human Rights Forum (EHRF), Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE), among others.