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HRW slams UAE for holding 51 detainees beyond jail sentences

HRW slams UAE for holding 51 detainees on 'baseless accusations' beyond release date
3 min read
13 April, 2023
The UAE is holding at least 51 people in detention despite their prison sentences being complete, Human Rights Watch has said.
HRW said that in at least one case a prisoner was told his sentence might be extended [Getty]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) slammed the UAE on Wednesday for continuing to hold individuals past their sentences and demanded the immediate release of the prisoners.

The international rights watchdog documented at least 51 cases in which Emirati detainees were being held past their scheduled release date for over one month or, in extreme cases, for an extra four years. 

They are part of the "UAE94" mass trial in which government critics - including human rights defenders, lawyers and activists - were incarcerated for violating the penal code, which prohibits participation in groups aiming to "overthrow" the country's political system. 

HRW urged Abu Dhabi to "free them immediately and end their decades-long ordeal". 

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HRW and Amnesty International said the charges and trial were grossly unfair and have continually drawn attention to allegations of torture and abuse against the detainees.

"None of the families [of the prisoners] whom HRW spoke [with] have received any indication from Emirati authorities that their loved ones will be released soon," Joey Shea, a UAE and Saudi Arabia researcher at HRW told The New Arab. 

"Some prisoners completed their sentences as far back as July 2019 yet remain imprisoned with no clear sign as to when they might be released. Partners of the UAE should pressure UAE authorities to immediately release those unjustly imprisoned," she added. 

The 51 prisoners are among 94 individuals detained in 2012 and charged in 2013 by an Abu Dhabi court.

By March 2023, several of the detainees had completed their sentences but remained in prison with no word on when they would be released or access to adequate legal resources. 

The UAE’s counterterrorism law allows the state to hold people in Munasaha, or counselling centres, for an indefinite period of time if they are believed to pose a "terrorist threat". 

HRW documented at least four cases out of the 51 in which individuals were held in a Munasaha and then told by a judge that they needed further "rehabilitation". 

There are also reports of "systematic mistreatment, including torture" against members of the 94, with individuals held in solidarity confinement and accusations of confessions being obtained under torture. 

"All the prisoners are suffering there, they don’t have their rights and it is very hard to visit them," said a family member of one of the prisoners. 

"Without immediate release, these prisoners and their families will continue to needlessly suffer. Their only crime was having the courage to exercise their rights to free expression and association," said Joey Shea. 

"Like many monarchies, the UAE uses its dictator courts to silence independent thinkers and to block freedom of expression," said Sunjeev Berry, Executive Director of Freedom Forward, to The New Arab

"These prisoners of conscience should never have been put in jail to begin with. They should be released immediately. 

"Now the UAE dictatorship is getting ready to hide its crimes behind a massive wave of greenwashing as it hosts the 2023 COP28 global climate conference later this year," he said. 

The New Arab reached out to the UAE embassy in London but received no response by the time of publication.

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The New Arab Staff & Agencies
The New Arab Staff & Agencies