Over the past few days, the United Arab Emirates have increased their efforts to silence human rights and political activists who have exercised their legitimate right to freedom of expression by arresting them on national security grounds. At least 15 activists have been arrested by the Emirati security services in the last 72 hours in Ras Al-Khaimah, Dubai, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi following the forced deportation of Bidoon human rights defender Ahmed Abdulkhaleq to Thailand on 16 July, which was identified as a 'very disturbing case' by the UN. This latest round of arrests brings the number of activists arrested since March 2012 to 28. Alkarama condemns these arrests and calls for their immediate release.
On 15 July, State news agency WAM announced
that Attorney General Said Kubaish, had ordered the arrest of a 'group' allegedly plotting a conspiracy threatening 'state security' and challenging the constitution. In the 3 days following this announcement, at least 15 human rights and political activists were arrested by the Emirati security services in Ras Al-Khaimah, Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi including prominent human rights lawyers Dr Mohammed Al-Roken
and Dr Mohamed Al-Mansoori
, Director of the Emirates Center for Studies and Information. Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken, was one of the lawyers who provided legal assistance to Al-Islah members detained arbitrarily and other Emirati activists known as the "UAE5"
In addition to these two prominent activists, local human rights groups said that the following persons were arrested on 16th, 17th and 18th of July:
On 16 July:
- Abdulrahman Al-Hadidi, Al-Islah member, arrested at the airport while he was leaving with his family to carry out an omra pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
- Khalifa Al-Nuaimi, 24 year-old student and human rights defender, was at his home. The security services searched his house for 5 hours before taking him to an unknown location
- Rashid Al-Shamsi, writer
- Khalid Al-Nuaimi, political activist,
- Abdulrahman Al-Nuaimi, son of Khalid Al-Nuaimi, since released
- Omran Al-Radhwan, 29 year-old youth activist, arrested by four men who searched his home for 5 hours
- Dr Ibrahim Al-Yassi, member of Al-Islah
- Mohamed Al-Hosani
- Husain Al-Najjar, member of Al-Islah.
On 17 July:
- Rashid Al-Roken, son of Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken;
- Abdullah Al-Hajiri, son-in-law of Dr Mohammed Al-Roken Essa Al-Sari, member of Al-Islah
- Essa Al-Sari, Al-Islah member
On 18 July:
- Dr. Issa Khalifa Al-Suwaidi, Former director of the Abu Dhabi Educational Zone
Local human rights activists have told Alkarama that Abdulrahman Al-Hadidi who was arrested on the 16 July was detained by the security services in Abu Dhabi. They report that the only one to have been released a few hours after his arrest is Abdulrahman Al-Nuaimi. To date, the authorities have refused to acknowledge the detention of the other activists. Local groups report that they are likely to be held in preventive detention on national security grounds. Charges they may face include "opposing the constitution and the basic principles of the UAE ruling system". Some of the activists arrested are affiliated with Al-Islah (Call for Reform) Association, a non-violent political group calling for constitutional reform of the Emirates. Crackdown against Al-Islah activists has intensified since 20 April 2012 with the arrest of Al-Islah's President Sultan Al-Qasimi.
Alkarama is extremely concerned by this escalating crackdown on Emirati activists, on the basis of fallacious allegations such as 'posing a threat to national security'. The authorities are clearly using such pretext as a tool to quell dissent in the country and to try to silence activists by resorting to arbitrary arrests and detentions, the threat of withdrawal of citizenship and the use of forced deportation.
The UN yesterday called on the Emirati authorities to "provide protection to human rights defenders to ensure they can carry out their work, following reports of various cases of harassment, arbitrary arrests, and expulsion from the country". Alkarama joins all those calling for the immediate release of these and other activists arrested for expressing their opinions. We recall that the arbitrary arrest and detention of the 14 activists is clearly a violation of the Article 32 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights which guarantees the freedom of opinion and expression.