HRD Obaid Al-Zaabi found innocent and finally released after four years in prison


On 21st December 2017, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights reported the release of human rights defender, Obaid Al-Zaabi, more than three years after a court found him innocent. He had spent four years imprisoned since his arrest in December 2013. Al-Zaabi was held in the prisoners’ ward of Al-Khalifa hospital due to serious medical conditions, including a form of arthritis that prevented him from moving without assistance and medications. On 26th May 2014, the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi declared Al-Zaabi innocent of charges brought against him, but the State Security Apparatus refused to release him. The charges against Al-Zaabi, of which he was found innocent, were connected to the legitimate and peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression. The charges included "setting up a Twitter account; networking and disseminating of information that incites hatred; accusing State Security Apparatus of torture, and accusing the rulers of UAE of injustice".


Human rights defenders continue to be arbitrarily detained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). On 10th December 2017, International Human Rights Day, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), among others, renewed their calls for the release of award-winning human rights defender, Ahmed Mansoor, a member of the advisory boards of GCHR and Human Rights Watch. Mansoor has been detained in the UAE since 20th March 2017, despite repeated calls for his release. Since his arrest, he has been denied access to his lawyer and held in solitary confinement, and the authorities have refused to tell his family where he is being held.

Mansoor’s case has also been highlighted in a submission by Access Now in the third cycle of the UAE’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the UN Human Rights Council, which will take place on 22nd January 2018. The submission also calls upon the UAE government to repeal sections of the 2012 Cyber Crimes Law which has been used to target human rights defenders and activists. 

According to the UPR submission from Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, the UAE has not implemented the vast majority of recommendations from its second UPR cycle in 2013, and that the authorities have continued to impose “severe restrictions on political activity, human rights work, and independent civil society space”.