United Arab Emirates: ICJ concerned by trial of lawyers and human rights defenders

The ICJ expressed its concern over the criminal trial of 94 individuals, including judges, lawyers, academics, human rights defenders and civil society activists, in the State Security Chamber of the UAE Federal Supreme Court.

Following a wave of arbitrary arrests and detention, which began in March 2012, the case was referred to the Supreme Court on 27 January 2013.

“The ICJ is gravely concerned over the fairness of the upcoming proceedings, including the lack of any right of appeal, the lack of restrictions on the use of evidence obtained through torture or ill-treatment and severe restrictions imposed on the rights of the defence, in contravention of international human rights law, including the Arab Charter on Human Rights, to which the UAE is a party,” said Said Benarbia, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser of the Middle East and North Africa Programme. “Furthermore, allegations of torture and ill-treatment by detainees, including incommunicado detention, prolonged solitary confinement, sleep deprivation and verbal and physical abuse, must be promptly, impartially and thoroughly investigated.”

The ICJ further notes that there have been violations of international fair standards.

These include the failure of State authorities to formally charge defendants, severe restrictions on access to legal counsel, including during questioning and the failure to disclose case files to the defence until a few days before trial.

Until two weeks before the trial, there was a single lawyer acting for all detainees and other lawyers who tried to assist have faced harassment, including detention and deportation, the ICJ says.

The trial is part of a broader crackdown by the UAE authorities in response to a petition signed by 100 academics, legal professionals, and civil society activists, in March 2011, for political reforms and increased public participation in government.

“The ICJ condemns the use of criminal proceedings to suppress peaceful calls for increased democracy as an unlawful restriction on the right to freedom of expression,” Benarbia added. “Extending the clampdown on critics to include numerous members of the legal profession severely compromises the Rule of Law in the UAE.”


Said Benarbia, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, tel: 41 22 979 38 17, e-mail: said.benarbia(at)icj.org


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