Shadows of the missing: Body outlines on London's streets raise awareness of UAE's enforced disappearances

Shadows of the missing: Body outlines on London's streets raise awareness of UAE's enforced disappearances
On the UN's International Day of the Disappeared, activists in London have sought to draw attention to cases of enforced disappearances in the UAE with crime scene-style installations.
2 min read
30 August, 2017
Crime scene-style installations against the UAE appeared across London on Wednesday [ICFUAE]
Activists in London marked UN's International Day of the Disappeared by highlighting the plight of those missing in the United Arab Emirates.

At key locations throughout the city – including outside the UAE embassy in Kensington, near the Emirates Royal Docks in Greenwich, and in the shadows of the unknown soldier in Westminster Abbey –activists from the International Campaign for Freedom [ICF] in the UAE shed light on a number of enforced disappearances in the Emirati state by taping outlines of bodies to the floor in crime scene-style installations.

UAE authorities regularly use enforced disappearances as a means to spread fear and insecurity throughout society, repress political opposition, and silence dissenting voices, ICF said.  

In recent years, authorities have forcefully disappeared journalists, human rights activists and academics for months, or in some cases, years at a time, the group added.  

In March this year, the prominent human rights activist, Ahmed Mansoor was forcefully disappeared by UAE authorities after plain-clothed officials stormed his home in the early hours.

He has since been held in an unknown location by Emirati authorities and has been denied family visits or access to a lawyer.  

Similarly, in March 2015, Jordanian journalist Tayseer al-Najjar was forcefully disappeared by authorities for over a year before being sentenced to three years in prison on Twitter charges. During this period, he was held without charge in an unknown location, where he was denied access to lawyer or family visits.

In 2010, UAE authorities refused to ratify a UN treaty which was aimed at preventing enforced disappearances worldwide and have so far declined numerous requests from the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to investigate such cases in the Emirati state.

"As cases of enforced disappearances mount in the UAE, it is imperative that the international community do more to exert pressure on the Emirati authorities to adhere to human rights law," ICF said in a statement, as it called on the UK government to establish a conditional trading agreement with the UAE based on its adherence to human rights law.

Rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also used this day to urge the UN to probe the cases of some 80,000 Syrians who have been forcibly disappeared or abducted by mainly regime forces since 2011.