Human rights defenders denounced the prevalence of torture violations in the prisons of the ruling regime in the UAE and the absence of a legal system that provides sufficient guarantees to protect prisoners of conscience.
This came during a human rights symposium held by the Mena Organization for Human Rights in the meeting room at the United Nations in Geneva to shed light on torture violations in the UAE, in which many activists and rights experts participated.
Ramzi Qais, the legal policy officer in the Mena organization, said that the Emirati authorities, and specifically the state security apparatus, are responsible for committing broad patterns of human rights violations, such as arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance and torture.
Qais stressed that these violations, which Mena reached during its documentation of human rights violations in the Middle East, mainly targeted human rights defenders, activists and sound opponents.
He added that since 2011, the repressive campaigns of the Emirati authorities against rights and freedoms have increased, using a set of laws that criminalize freedom of expressions, such as the Cybercrime Law, the Terrorism Law and the State Security Agency Law.
He explained that in the absence of legal guarantees protecting human rights, torture had become a widespread practice in the UAE, noting that the legal system in Abu Dhabi does not provide sufficient guarantees to protect detainees from torture and that the authorities do not respect the guarantees in the law.
In turn, Hamad Al Shamsi, Executive Director of the Center for the Advocacy of Emirates Detainees, confirmed that human rights violations and torture had become a regular occurrence in the Emirates and a legal part of the procedures for arresting and interrogating individuals.
Al Shamsi stressed that he is not talking about individual cases of torture but rather about a systematic practice, pointing out that the legal system in the UAE has given legal legitimacy to torture through a secret law, the State Security Law issued in 2003.
Al Shamsi noted that the State Security Law allows the State Security Service to detain individuals in secret prisons and arrest them for up to 90 days without presenting them to the Public Prosecution, notifying their families, or allowing them to communicate with a lawyer.
He pointed out that the Advocacy Center documented dozens of cases of torture of detainees, including the case of Dr Judge Ahmed Al-Zaabi, who continued to show traces of torture on his body despite the passage of three months since his arrest, and that the Public Prosecution judge continued to investigate him without doing anything.
Al-Shamsi warned that detaining individuals in secret prisons, and subjecting them to physical torture, is not the only method the authorities practise against prisoners of conscience.
He said that the Emirati authorities are currently holding more than 45 detainees, despite the expiry of their sentences, some of whom ended their sentences five years ago, stressing that this is a severe form of psychological torture, confirmed by psychologist Nora Sivas.
He added that there are no counselling centres, as prisoners of conscience were in Al-Razeen prison before the end of their sentence and are still in the same jail after the end. This means that the counselling law is only a cover for keeping detainees in prison indefinitely.
The Emirati activist, Janan Al-Marzouqi, spoke about the horrific violations that her father, Abdul Salam Darwish Al-Marzouqi, was subjected to during his arrest, noting that the first time she saw him after his arrest, she was shocked, as he lost at least half of his weight, and appeared very tired.
Al-Marzouqi added that her father was subjected to torture and beatings during his detention, he was denied access to the necessary medical treatment, and he was forced to sign confessions he did not read, in addition to depriving him of his most basic rights as a detainee.
Al-Marzouqi added that ten years after her father’s arrest and the expiration of his sentence, the authorities did not release him and transferred him to Al-Manasiha under the pretext that he poses a terrorist threat, stressing that her father was a social reformer and under no circumstances can he be considered a terrorist.
During the seminar, the Finnish human rights defender, Tina Jauhiainen, spoke about her experience when she was arrested in the UAE, noting that the UAE authorities detained her in a very cold unknown location, was subjected to death threats, and was forced to film confessions and sign confessions in Arabic.
Jauhiainen confirmed that she will no longer be silent about what happened to her in the UAE and is currently considering filing a case against Abu Dhabi because of her torture, noting that she will continue to raise awareness about the violations committed by the UAE authorities.
In turn, French human rights lawyer Clara Gerard Rodriguez confirmed that the legal system in the UAE does not contain legal mechanisms that enable victims to file complaints against torture by police officers or officials.
Clara said that the torture practised by the authorities is a crime against humanity according to the law of the International Criminal Court. Still, Abu Dhabi is not a party to the court agreement, and therefore it is not possible to file a complaint with the court against Emirati officials.
She added that the only available solution to punish officials involved in torture is to prosecute them in foreign courts that adopt mechanisms to prosecute perpetrators of torture crimes under the principle of universal jurisdiction, such as French or Argentine courts.
Clara pointed out that the case against the head of the “Interpol” organization, Ahmed Al Raisi, in France, because of his involvement in crimes of torture in the UAE, is an example of how Emirati officials who were involved in suffering can be prosecuted.