United Arab Emirates: 68 people convicted in unfair trial; ICJ calls for immediate release of those detained
The ICJ calls on the UAE authorities to take urgent measures to ensure the extinguishment of the convictions of the 68 individuals convicted in the UAE 94 case, and to immediately and unconditionally release those detained.
The ICJ also calls for the withdrawal of any remaining charges against each of the 94 accused.
Sixty-eight individuals were convicted today by the State Security Chamber of the UAE Federal Supreme Court and sentenced to varying sentences.
These include 56 accused who were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and 8 accused who were tried in absentia and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
The convicted individuals were found guilty of “establishing, founding and administering an organization, with the aim of challenging the basic principles upon which the government of the State is based, taking control of the government and establishing a secret structure for the organization”.
“The legal provisions on which these convictions are based fail to meet international law requirements of legal certainty and criminalize the enjoyment and exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association”, stated Said Benarbia, Senior Legal Adviser of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme.
The ICJ considers that the trial against the accused has failed to comport with international law and standards governing fair trials, including the rights of accused persons to be informed of the reasons for their arrest and the charges against them.
The rights of the accused to be presumed innocent was also undermined by provisions of UAE law that effectively impose a presumption of guilt and allow for the indefinite renewal of pre-trial detention orders.
Further, most of the detainees were held in secret pre-trial detention, including prolonged incommunicado detention and solitary confinement.
Their right of access to family members and to a lawyer during the first months of detention was denied, and most of the detainees were unable to challenge the lawfulness of their detention.
They also reported being subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including severe beatings, pulling out detainees’ hair, sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme light during the day and night, death threats and other threats and verbal abuse.
None of these allegations of ill-treatment were investigated and prosecuted by the UAE authorities. Instead, “confessions” and other information obtained as a result of torture and other ill-treatment were heavily relied upon as evidence to “prove” the charges against the accused.
The rights of the accused to defence were also severely restricted, including by denying defence lawyers’ access to detainees in pre-trial detention, in particular during interrogation; delaying their access to cases files until a few days before the trial; subjecting them to various forms of intimidation and harassment, including criminal prosecution; and severely curtailing their right to cross-examine witnesses.
Two ICJ observers, together with other international observers and international media, were denied access to the first and second hearings of the trial in contravention of international standards on the right to a public hearing.
Further restrictions on this right included relatives being forced to sign statements agreeing not to disclose information about the trial hearings as a condition to being granted access.
Some of the relatives who reportedly disclosed information about the trial have been subjected to various forms of harassment by UAE authorities.
One individual was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to a 10-month prison term for “tweeting with bad intent about the trial”.
The ICJ notes that under UAE law, decisions of the Supreme Court cannot be reviewed by any other court, which denies the right of the convicted individuals to an appeal.
“The UAE 94 trial has been marred with a catalogue of violations of fair trial guarantees that have undermined the fairness of the proceedings at every stage. Consequently, any remaining charges against the accused must be withdrawn and those detained must be immediately and unconditionally released”, Benarbia added. “Allegations of torture and ill-treatment must also be promptly, independently and impartially investigated and those responsible held accountable”, he added.
An analytical report on the charges and trial of the UAE 94 in light of international law and standards will be published this month.
Said Benarbia, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, tel: 41 22 979 38 17, e-mail: said.benarbia(a)icj.orgNewsPress releases