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Written by HRDs and Journalists
United Arab Emirates: Briefing Paper on Suppression of Free Expression, including Threats and Intimidation against the “UAE 5”
Authored by Dr. Charlotte Peevers, a barrister based in the United Kingdom, on behalf of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). Support for the briefing paper, including research assistance, was provided by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX).
Dr. Charlotte Peevers travelled to the United Arab Emirates in late October-early November to investigate issues surrounding the trial and detention of the “UAE 5” – five activists detained since April and accused of “publicly insulting” Emirati rulers in an Internet forum. The investigation included alleged threats made against the detainees, and the wider censorship of political and legal concerns arising out of the case. Peevers interviewed family and lawyers of the accused, one of the accused, and others.
Peevers concludes that the UAE 5 have been subject to an alarming series of threats and intimidation, orchestrated by private actors but with the apparent acquiescence of Emirati authorities who have failed to uphold basic standards of UAE and international law by ignoring what are transparently crimes under domestic and international law. These threats not only seek to intimidate the UAE 5, but also seek to undermine the judicial process and influence judicial decision-making.
The families of those detained and one of their lawyers have filed over a dozen specific complaints, each supported with documentary evidence, in order to assist the authorities in holding accountable those who would seek to interfere with the course of justice. That the authorities have ignored all these complaints further undermines the authorities’ claims to be acting ‘according to law’ in prosecuting the UAE 5: the political motivation underlying this trial is brought into sharp relief when those committing crimes of interfering with justice, and threatening the lives of others through violence are deemed immune from prosecution.
The report recommends that the UAE authorities:
- Immediately open an investigation into the threats made against the UAE 5, in particular the death threats aimed at Ahmed Mansoor and the online slander campaign, whose perpetrators are identifiable;
- Provide appropriate redress to the UAE 5, in accordance with UAE and international law, in particular to ensure that perpetrators of public threats and acts seeking to pervert the course of justice are held to account through due process of law; and
- Conduct an investigation into the arrest, denial of bail and pre-trial detention conditions of the UAE 5, to consider the proportionality of their response to misdemeanour offences.