The ICJ today condemned the blatant disregard by the UAE of the right to a fair and public trial, after its international observers were prohibited from attending the first two hearings of criminal proceedings against 94 individuals.
The detainees include judges, lawyers and human rights defenders. The hearings took place before the State Security Chamber of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Federal Supreme Court.
The ICJ observers were turned away on 4 and 11 March 2013 by police officers before they reached the court.
“The ICJ deplores the decision of the UAE authorities to conduct the trial of the 94 detainees behind closed doors and to deny access to all international observers for both the opening and second hearing of this trial”, said Ketil Lund, ICJ Commissioner, former Supreme Court Judge of Norway and one of the two ICJ observers who was denied access to the court.
“This denial, combined with consistent and credible reports that detainees have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including prolonged solitary confinement, and denied full access to defence counsel, both during questioning and in preparation for the trial, are inconsistent with fair trial standards and cast serious doubts about the fairness and the outcome of the process.”
Under international law and standards and UAE law, all criminal trials must be open to the public, subject to narrow exceptions not apparently applicable in this trial.
The denial of access to international observers itself constitutes a serious violation of the right to a fair trial.
The ICJ calls on the UAE authorities to fully investigate reports of torture and ill-treatment of the detainees and ensure that information obtained through such practices are not used as evidence in the criminal proceedings.
The UAE authorities must also ensure that as long as the accused remain in detention, their right to have full and unrestricted access to lawyers, including the right to consult in private, medical personnel and family members are fully guaranteed.
The ICJ notes that the accused are charged with “establishing, founding and administering an organization, Da’wat Al Islah, 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” (Decision of referral No.79 of 2012 (State Security) of 27 January 2013).
“These ill-defined charges, which fail to meet international law requirements of legal certainty, criminalise the enjoyment and exercise of the rights of all UAE citizens to freedom of expression and association, and to fully take part in the conduct of public affairs. The UAE authorities must therefore drop these charges and put an immediate end to this unfair judicial process,” Lund added.
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
UAE-right to a fair trial-press release-2013-Arabic (full text, pdf)