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UAE waging 'sustained assault' on rights, freedoms: NGOs

UAE waging 'sustained assault' on rights, freedoms: HRW, Amnesty
2 min read
01 May, 2023
A joint statement from 42 organisations, including Amnesty International, expressed 'deep concern' over the human rights situation in the UAE ahead of the COP28 climate change conference starting in late November.
NGOs have said that the UAE authorities were "targeting human rights activists" [Getty]

UAE authorities are waging a "sustained assault" on rights and freedoms, Human Rights Watch and more than 40 other groups said on Monday.

The joint statement by the 42 organisations, which include Amnesty International, Democracy for the Arab World Now and the UK-based Emirates Centre for Human Rights, comes before the UAE hosts the COP28 UN climate change conference starting in late November.

The groups said UAE authorities were "targeting human rights activists, enacting repressive laws and using the criminal justice system as a tool to eliminate the human rights movement".

"These policies have led to the closure of civic space, severe restrictions on freedom of expression, both online and offline, and the criminalisation of peaceful dissent," the statement added.

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At least 60 Emirati rights defenders, civil society activists and political dissidents were "unjustly detained" for over a decade after being arrested in 2012 for demanding reform and democracy or affiliation with Al-Islah movement, the statement said.

It also highlights the 2021 Cybercrime Law, saying this was issued to "restrict online activism and dissent".

"As the UAE will host the 28th United Nations global climate talks (COP28) from 30 November to 12 December 2023, we express our deep concern over the human rights situation in the country," the statement said.

The rights groups were particularly concerned by the "severe restrictions imposed by the authorities on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly", the statement said, adding that these "seriously undermine the work of civil society and the space for political dissent in the country".

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"In addition, the UAE government could try to use its COP28 presidency to cynically promote an image of openness and tolerance, despite the UAE's failure to respect the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly," the statement added, noting the country is among the top global oil producers.

"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 groups made seven recommendations in their statement, including the "immediate and unconditional" release of everyone detained "solely for the exercise of their human rights".