Four political prisoners still held beyond sentence in UAE

On this international day in support of victims of torture, the ICFUAE reiterates its call on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to release four prisoners of conscience, convicted during the grossly unfair UAE 94 trial, who remain detained despite having completed their full seven-year sentences.

Omran al-Radwan al-Harathi and Mahmoud Hasan al-Hosani were set to be released on 16th July 2019 with Abdullah Abdulqader al- Hajiri and Fahd Abdulqader al- Hajiri set to be released on 12th July 2019 and 2nd March 2020 respectively. Nonetheless, they all still remain detained in arbitrary detention in Abu Dhabi’s infamously repressive Al Razeen prison with no indication of their release.

These human rights activists are not the only prisoners of conscience held beyond their release date. In fact, the 4 prisoners convicted in the UAE 94 trial join another five Emirati prisoners who continue to be held beyond their sentence, including two women: Khalifa al-Rabia, Abdullah Ibrahim al-Hilo Abdullwahid Hasan al-Sihi, Amina Mohammed al-Abdouli and Maryam Suliman al-Balushi.

The “UAE 94” trial of 2013 accused 94 activists, including prominent lawyers, university lecturers, student leaders and judges of plotting to overthrow the government after launching a petition in 2011 in which they publicly advocated for democratic reform in the UAE. Sixty-nine out of the ninety-four activists were convicted and sentenced to between seven and fifteen years. Pre-trial torture was common; enforced disappearances, imprisonment in pre-trial secret detention facilities, abuse and ill-treatment were all frequent occurrences inflicted on these political activists.

Following the completion of their sentences, the four political prisoners, convicted to seven years during the UAE 94 trial, were forcibly kept imprisoned. The notion of keeping prisoners behind bars beyond their sentence is known as indefinite detention; a common practice within the UAE, notably as authorities have consistently failed to release prisoners of conscience despite the completion of their sentences. Instead, these imprisoned activists are further detained according to the Counter Terrorism Law, which deems these prisoners pose a terrorist threat to the state. Subsequently they are relocated to “counselling centres,” known as ‘Munasaha Centres’. These ‘Munasaha Centres’ are located within the prisons themselves and according to Article 1 of UAE’s counterterrorism law aim to ‘enlighten and reform’ prisoners who pose a terrorist threat or have committed an act of terrorism.

By failing to release the prisoners after the completion of their sentences the UAE authorities further demonstrate their continued use of tools of repression and the systemic oppression evident within their regime. The continued practice of imprisoning inmates beyond their release dates not only violates international human rights laws but equally breaches the UAE’s own rules regarding fair trials and procedures.