The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continued incommunicado detention since December 12, 2013 of Mr. Obaid Yousef al-Zaabi, a Twitter activist, for posting a series of tweets criticising a mass trial of government critics and reform advocates.
According to the information received, although on June 23, 2014 the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi acquitted Mr. Obaid al-Zaabi of all charges, he remains kept in incommunicado detention. He and his family have not been informed why he is still held and on what legal basis. He has been allowed only one family visit since his arrest and has had no access to a lawyer since his acquittal.
Mr. Obaid al-Zaabi was arrested on July 2, 2013, after posting a series of tweets criticising a mass trial of 94 government critics and reform advocates (UAE 94 trial). On August 4, 2013, he was released on bail due to his poor health.
On December 12, 2013, Mr. Obaid Yousef al-Zaabi was arrested again by State Security officers, after CNN aired an interview he had given, in which he said he had been using Twitter to express his political opinions, denounce torture and defend human rights, raising awareness about people arbitrarily detained by the security forces. He was charged with “harming public peace and violating public order”, “offending the Supreme Court”, “offending the State Security apparatus by accusing it of torture”, “accusing rulers of UAE of injustice” and “instigating people against the rulers and the security of the State”, on the basis of the Cybercrimes Law 2012.
Mr. al-Zaabi was held in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance for several weeks after he was arrested. His family was not told where he was despite enquiring about him with the relevant police authorities, and he had no access to a lawyer during his pre-trial detention.
Mr. Obaid Yousef al-Zaabi is now detained in the prisoners’ ward in Sheikh Khalifa Medical City Hospital in Abu Dhabi, as he suffers from advanced arthritis and rheumatism and has difficulty walking.
Mr. Obaid Yousef al-Zaabi’s continuing detention after his acquittal violate both international and UAE law, as there is no legal basis for depriving him of his liberty.
Moreover, the case of Mr. Obaid Yousef al-Zaabi is illustrative of a wider repression campaign targeting human rights defenders criticising the current regime in the country since the “Cybercrimes Law” was passed in 2012. UAE authorities have increasingly used this law to clamp down on all forms of on-line dissent, especially via Twitter, which is used widely in the United Arab Emirates, and to prosecute social media users criticising the country’s human rights offences.
The Observatory expresses its concern regarding the ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. Obaid Yousef al-Zaabi, which seems to aim only at preventing him from carrying out his peaceful human rights activities, and calls upon the UAE judicial authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him.
Please write to the authorities of the United Arab Emirates asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Obaid Yousef al-Zaabi and all human rights defenders in UAE;
ii. Release Mr. Obaid Yousef al-Zaabi immediately and unconditionally, since his detention is arbitrary as it seems to only aim at curtailing his human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Obaid Yousef al-Zaabi and all human rights defenders in UAE;
iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with: its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”; its Article 6(a), which foresees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”; its Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;
v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the United Arab Emirates.
· President of the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Corniche Road Abu Dhabi, P.O. Box 280 United Arab Emirates. Fax: +971 2 622 2228. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mr. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince Court Bainunah Street, Abu Dhabi, P.O. Box 124, United Arab Emirates. Fax: +971 2 668 6622. Twitter: @MBZNews
· Vice-President and Prime Minister, MR Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Office of the Prime Minister, Dubai, P.O. Box 2838, United Arab Emirates. Fax: + 971 4 353 1974. Email: email@example.com
· H.E. Mr. Obaid Salem Saeed Al Zaabi, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations in Geneva, 58 Rue de Moillebeau, 1209 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41.22.734.556. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
· H.E. Mr. Sulaiman Hamid Salem Almazroui, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Brussels, 11 Rue des Colonies, 1000 Brussels, Belgium. Fax: 02 646 24 73. E-mail: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of UAE in your respective country.