Ahmed Mansoor’s hunger strike enters its fourth week
Ahmed Mansoor’s open hunger strike in the United Arab Emirates ruling regime jails enters its fourth week amid international human rights criticism of Abu Dhabi for its human rights abuses.
Human Rights Watch highlighted that Ahmed Mansoor’s case and the arbitrary abuse and persecution exposed the absence of any tolerance in the UAE with any criticism of its rulers and policies.
On December 31, 2018, the Supreme Federal Court of the UAE, the country’s highest court to hear cases of state security, upheld the 10-year prison term for Ahmed Mansoor, an international rights activist, and an international prize winner.
In May, a court in Abu Dhabi sentenced Mansoor to 10 years in prison for defaming the UAE on social media. The date of the appeal session, held on New Year’s Eve, which raises concerns that the authorities intend to support Mansoor’s conviction at a time when the trial will not receive much media attention. Mansoor, a member of the Middle East Advisory Committee at Human Rights Watch, won the prestigious Martin Ennals Award in 2015.
“The repeated legal persecution of Ahmed Mansoor simply for advocating basic rights exposes the UAE’s extreme intolerance of any criticism of its rulers and its policies,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “This devastating decision marks another nail in the coffin of any hope for justice in the UAE.”
The UAE authorities arrested Mansoor on 20 March 2017. He was held for more than a year in an unknown location without any contact with a lawyer, where he received very limited family visits, and he was sentenced on May 29, 2018.
On May 30, the UAE newspaper The National reported that a court sentenced Mansoor to 10 years in prison and a fine of one million dirhams (US$ 272,000), three years under probation after the end of the sentence, and the confiscation of his electronic devices.
The court convicted Mansoor of insulting the prestige, status, and symbols of the state, including its leaders, and trying to destabilize the UAE’s relationship with neighboring countries by publishing false reports and information on social media.
In the weeks before his arrest, Mansoor criticized the UAE’s trials of people for crimes related to freedom of expression. He also used his Twitter account to draw attention to human rights abuses in the region, including Egypt and Yemen.
In addition to two other activists in the region, he signed a joint letter demanding that the leaders of the Arab League Summit in Jordan in March 2017 release political prisoners in their countries.
In April 2011, the UAE authorities detained Mansoor for his peaceful demand for reform. In November, after an unfair trial, he was sentenced by the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi to three years’ imprisonment for insulting senior officials in the country.
Although the President of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, issued an amnesty for Mansoor, the authorities never returned his passport, imposing a de facto travel ban on him. He was also subjected to physical attacks, death threats, government surveillance and attacks using sophisticated spyware.
Mansoor’s convictions and current sentence, resulting from the exercise of his right to free speech, his political, opinions, and his status as a human rights defender, represent an act of brutal state repression that violates Mansoor’s rights under international human rights law, Human Rights Watch said.
In August 2016, the Toronto-based research group Citizen Lab reported that Mansoor received suspicious text messages on his iPhone promising information about detainees tortured in UAE jails and urging him to click on a link.
Citizen Lab found out that clicking on the link would have installed sophisticated spyware on his iPhone that allows an outside operator to control the targeted iPhone’s telephone and camera, monitor chat applications, and track the user’s movements. Similar methods for breaking into iPhones have been valued at US$1 million, which led Citizen Lab to call Mansoor “the million-dollar dissident.”
Sheikh Khalifa Al Nahyan has declared 2019 as the Year of Tolerance, to shine a spotlight on the UAE as a global capital for tolerance, instilling the values of co-existence and peace in local, regional, and international communities, the state news agency WAM reported.
“For the UAE to declare 2019 as the year of tolerance while ending this year with such a ruthless act of injustice reveals a deeply hypocritical stance on human rights,” Page said.