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DW Arabic: The UAE uses the fight against cybercrime to suppress dissent

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Deutsche Welle (DW Arabic) said that the UAE uses the anti-cybercrime law to suppress dissent and ban freedom of opinion and expression.

In its lengthy report, the network reviewed the expansion of cybercrime globally and the severe threat it poses to governments, individuals, and institutions worldwide.

The network indicated that in an attempt to combat these crimes, nearly 80 per cent of the world’s countries have started implementing legislation for this type of crime, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

However, many countries in the Middle East have anti-cybercrime legislation in place but abuse it to silence dissenting voices and curb freedom of expression in this volatile region.

According to the German network, the UAE is at the forefront of countries in the region in using laws to combat cybercrime against opponents.

In this regard, Law No. 2 of 2006 regarding combating information technology crimes, which was amended last February, increased fines for piracy, identity theft, electronic commissions, cryptocurrency-related crimes, and even spreading rumours and taking photos of others without their permission.

In light of the legislation, 15 human rights organizations, including MENA for Human Rights, called on the Emirati authorities to repeal or amend the law as it aims to limit freedom of expression.

It is still unclear whether the National Human Rights Commission, which began its work in the UAE this month, will respond to these calls.

According to Emirati media, the draft law establishing the National Human Rights Authority defines “nine supervisory and guiding powers for the work of the authority, the most prominent of which are the promotion and protection of human rights in the state, the dissemination of a culture of human rights and awareness of community members about it, the promotion of equality and the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, and the receipt of individual complaints related to human rights”.

However, observers believe that the Commission lacks independence.

Chris Kubica, a cybersecurity specialist at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said she hopes the authority will help solve “the issue of dissidents in the UAE as it should be more than just creating a website. Rather, this must be accompanied by creating a transparent strategy following international standards.”

Human rights organizations say that they will closely monitor the human rights situation in the UAE and the Commission’s role in addressing human rights issues, especially the case of Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor, detainee of conscience.

Mansour is considered one of the most prominent victims of the cybercrime law in the UAE, where he was convicted in May 2018 under Article 22 of the charge of “spreading false information that harms national unity and the country’s reputation” due to tweets on Twitter, facing a 10-year prison sentence.