Authorities in the United Arab Emirates should immediately release Ahmed Mansoor, an award-winning human rights defender who is facing charges that violate his right to freedom of expression, a coalition of 18 human rights organizations, including the ICJ, said today, one month after his arrest.
Mansoor, who received the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2015, has been in detention since March 20, 2017 facing speech-related charges that include using social media websites to “publish false information that harms national unity.”
On March 28, a group of United Nations (UN) human rights experts called on the UAE government to release him immediately, describing his arrest as “a direct attack on the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the UAE.”
“Ahmed Mansoor has an unimpeachable record as a defender of rights and freedoms, and every day he remains in prison will constitute a black mark on the UAE’s human rights record,” said the organizations.
Mansoor was arrested at his home in Ajman in the pre-dawn hours of March 20.
Security officers conducted an extensive search and took away all of the family’s mobile phones and laptops, including those belonging to his young children.
His family had no information on his whereabouts until authorities issued an official statement on March 29, saying he was in detention in the Central Prison in Abu Dhabi.
The signatories understand that Mansoor’s family have been allowed only one short supervised visit with him which took place two weeks after his arrest on April 3, when authorities moved him from where he was being held, believed to be a detention facility adjacent to Al-Wathba Prison, to a prosecutor’s office in Abu Dhabi.
Informed sources told rights groups that Mansoor is being held in solitary confinement and has not spoken to a lawyer.
The UAE’s official news agency, WAM, said on March 20 that Mansoor had been arrested on the orders of the Public Prosecution for Cybercrimes and detained pending further investigation.
It said that he is accused of using social media websites to: “publish false information and rumors;” “promote [a] sectarian and hate-incited agenda;” and “publish false and misleading information that harm national unity and social harmony and damage the country’s reputation.”
The statement classified these as “cybercrimes,” indicating that the charges against him may be based on alleged violations of the UAE’s repressive 2012 cybercrime law, which authorities have used to imprison numerous activists and which provides for long prison sentences and severe financial penalties.
In the weeks leading up to his arrest, Mansoor had called for the release of Osama al-Najjar, who remains in prison, despite having completed a three-year prison sentence on charges related to his peaceful activities on Twitter.
Mansoor had also criticized the prosecution of Dr. Nasser bin-Ghaith, a prominent academic and economist, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison on March 29, for charges that included speech-related offenses, including peaceful criticism of the UAE and Egyptian authorities.
Mansoor had also used his Twitter account to draw attention to human rights violations across the region, including in Egypt and those committed by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
He had also signed a joint letter with other activists in the region calling on leaders at the Arab Summit in Jordan at the end of March to release political prisoners in their countries.
“Ahmed has worked tirelessly, at great personal cost to himself, to advocate for human rights in the UAE and the wider region. He should be immediately released and the authorities should end their harassment of him once and for all,” the organizations added.
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
FIDH, under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Front Line Defenders
Gulf Centre for Human Rights
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
Index on Censorship
International Commission of Jurists
International Service for Human Rights
Martin Ennals Foundation
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Scholars at Risk
Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State, Tunisia
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
UAE-Joint statement AMansoor-News-Press releases-2017-ENG (full statement in English, PDF)NewsPress releases