The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) today calls for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities to make a public statement on the whereabouts of detained human rights lawyers, their treatment in detention and the reasons for their arrest. The IBAHRI is deeply concerned by the worsening situation for human rights lawyers in the UAE and calls for those illegally detained to be released immediately.
Baroness Kennedy, IBAHRI Co-Chair said, ‘Disturbing reports of an increasing catalogue of detention, deportation, intimidation and harassment of lawyers, by the UAE authorities, is creating a climate of fear among the legal profession – seriously undermining the rule of law in the country.’
Reports indicate that since March 2012, UAE authorities have arbitrarily detained 61 men on political grounds, including prominent defence lawyers. The IBAHRI is particularly alarmed by the specific targeting, by the UAE authorities, of lawyers associated with the ‘UAE 5’ case - concerning the criminal prosecution of online political activists in the UAE. In a series of confidential letters to Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the IBAHRI has expressed particular concern with regard to the case of Dr Mohamed al-Roken co-defence counsel for the ‘UAE 5’ who was arrested on 17 July 2012 and has since been held in detention without trial. Concern was also expressed about the unknown whereabouts of Dr Mohamed al-Mansoor, a prominent human rights lawyer and a former president of the UAE Jurists’ Association, who was arrested and taken into detention by the UAE authorities on 16 July 2012.
Sternford Moyo, IBAHRI Co-Chair said, ‘The unacceptable treatment of the UAE 5 defence counsel, and other human rights lawyers in the UAE, is in clear opposition to the UN Principles on the Role of Lawyers.’ He added, ‘Further, the IBAHRI reminds the UAE authorities that that the pretext of national security cannot be allowed to serve as justification for the intimidation, harassment and arbitrary detention of lawyers defending the human rights of UAE citizens’.
Other reported cases of concern relating to the harassment and intimidation of lawyers in the UAE include:
- Emirati lawyer Salim Hamdoon al-Shehhi, arrested on 17 July 2012 while travelling to the office of the State Security Prosecutor to represent arrested dissidents.
- Former judge and University of Sharjah law professor, Ahmed Yusif al-Zaabi, sentenced to 12 months in prison for fraud and assuming another person’s identity on 24 July 2012. Mr Al-Zaabi’s conviction was based on the fact that his passport still registered his profession as ‘judge’, after the UAE authorities had forced him into retirement when he expressed public support for political reform in the UAE in 2003.
- Qatari lawyer Hassan al-Sayed and Kuwaiti lawyer Ahmed Nashmi al-Dhufairi, subjected to intimidation and extensive search of their personal computers and documents on 24 July 2012 as they tried to leave the UAE, following a visit to meet the Emirati public prosecutor and discuss the detentions.
- Egyptian Lawyer Sameh Muktar, arrested on 8 August 2012 by Dubai immigration officials and expelled from the UAE on national security grounds. Mr Muktar was working with prominent UAE lawyer Abdulhameed al-Kumaiti, to provide legal assistance to peaceful political activists being held in detention without charge.
- Egyptian lawyers Osama Labib and Mahmoud Badawi, deported in August 2011 and October 2011 respectively.
In November 2011, the IBAHRI held a panel discussion on the right to a fair trial and the UAE 5, in Dubai, UAE, as part of the Rule of Law Day at the International Bar Association Annual Conference. The panel was chaired by Sternford Moyo, with panellists including Gabriela Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and Phillip Tahmindjis, IBAHRI Director. During the session, Dr Tahmindjis discussed the UAE 5 case and its implications for freedom of expression and the independence of the legal profession. The IBAHRI was critical of the restrictions placed on the right to freedom of expression in the UAE, particularly with respect to the online media, reminding the UAE authorities that any restriction on freedom of expression exercised on the internet must also comply with international human rights standards.
Click here to read the IBAHRI news release calling for the release of the UAE 5 (3 November 2011)
Click here to watch the IBAHRI session in Dubai
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