Prominent human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor sentenced to ten years imprisonment

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On 29th May 2018, prominent human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. Mansoor is a member of Gulf Centre for Human Rights’ (GCHR) Advisory Board, and member of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division. Mansoor was arrested on 20th March 2017 after using his twitter handle to publish tweets calling for the release of human rights defenders Osama Al-Najjar and Nasser bin Ghaith, and also exposing human rights violations in Yemen and Egypt. He was detained in solitary confinement in an undisclosed location with no access to lawyers of his choice until his trial began on 14th March 2018. In what has been reported to have been a grossly unfair trial by the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court, Mansoor was convicted of various charges including 'insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols' and 'trying to damage the relationship of the UAE with its neighbours by publishing false reports'. In addition to the prison sentence, the court also fined him one million Dirhams (USD $272,294) and ordered that he be put under surveillance for three years upon his release. Following his conviction and sentencing, details of the location and conditions of his imprisonment are unclear.

UN experts condemned the conviction and urged the authorities in the United Arab Emirates to immediately free Mansoor and annul the 10-year prison sentence imposed on him.

The experts said:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms Mr. Mansoor’s conviction and appeal to the Emirati authorities to reverse the decision against him and release him immediately. The charges against Ahmed Mansoor highlight an unabashed and blatant use of overbroad state security legislation to target human rights defenders in the UAE ... and ... we are particularly concerned his sentence may constitute an act of reprisal for his engagement with UN human rights mechanisms.”

A report of a mission undertaken by two Irish lawyers who attempted to visit him in February 2018 was released on 20th June 2018 by GCHR, the Martin Ennals Foundation, Front Line Defenders, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. The report titled “Ahmed Mansoor, the Missing Prisoner”, concluded that “given the widely documented use of torture and solitary confinement by UAE authorities, and the lack of any independent information regarding Mansoor, there are grave and solidly founded fears for his safety.”

Although Mansoor has a right to appeal his conviction, chances of a reversal of the court decision are bleak as the matter would be heard by the same court that convicted him.

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As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, UAE authorities have been complicit in a wave of arbitrary arrests of Omani citizens by Omani authorities. On 5th May 2018, United Arab Emirates police, acting on a request from the Omani authorities arrested Mohamed Abdullah Ahmad al-Shehhi in Dubai and handed him over to the Omani authorities the same day. Mohammed, a native of Musandam Province in Oman, is among several other Omanis from Musandam who are currently in state detention and facing trial following a spate of arbitrary arrests by Omani authorities. Details of the charges against the detainees remain scanty. The arrests have been criticised by human rights groups, who believe that they are motivated by discrimination because of the detainees’ tribal origins as members of the al-Shuhu tribe.