Silencing dissent in the United Arab Emirates: Torture and other ill-treatment

Amnesty International, 2014


“I am greatly saddened by this situation, and by

what we have come to…I never imagined that the injustice would affect girls and children. First, the withdrawal of the father’s passport, getting him fired, then imprisoned, then getting the son fired and banning him from travel. And now it’s the girls and children’s turn, denying them their education… What next?! What’s the idea behind all of this?!”

Mohammed al-Jabri, son of prisoner of conscience Hussein al-Jabri, writing on Twitter on May 2, 2014


This report is based on information that Amnesty International has obtained from a wide and diverse range of sources, both public and private, with direct knowledge of the human rights situation in the UAE, including activists, journalists, families of prisoners, and UAE-based organizations. Some of this information was gathered during two field visits that Amnesty International has conducted to the UAE since 2011; other information is based on interviews conducted outside the UAE. In March 2013, an independent observer was delegated by Amnesty International to observe proceedings of the UAE 94 trial but was denied entry to the UAE by security officials without explanation.


Amnesty International has also drawn extensively on public information sources, including submissions made by the UAE government to the UN Human Rights Council and UN treaty bodies, as well as to the findings of those bodies in relation to the UAE, statements by UAE government officials; media reports, and reports of other international human rights NGOs. Amnesty International also sought meetings with and requested information from the UAE authorities while conducting the research for this report. While in the UAE in November 2013, Amnesty International requested meetings with the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Interior, the Attorney General, and other officials, and requested authorization to conduct a

visit to al-Razeen Prison in Abu Dhabi, where most of the prisoners relevant to this report are serving their sentences. Amnesty International received no response to these requests. Nor did the UAE’s ambassador to the UK respond to an Amnesty International request to meet him in London.29


Amnesty International made a further attempt to obtain the government’s perspective and clarification on a number of issues in October 2014, and was pleased to receive in response a letter dated 30 October 2014 from the Assistant Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs, included as an Appendix to this report.30 The Minister’s reply makes assertions that run counter to information that Amnesty International obtained from a wide range of other, unofficial sources.


Many interviewees provided information to Amnesty International on condition that they not be identified in case this could place them at risk. Consequently, Amnesty International is withholding the identities of all those who provided information on this condition and of others who, if named, could be put at risk.




Amnesty International is calling on the UAE government to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience – that is, persons imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association or assembly or other legitimate exercise of their human rights;

  • Ensure that all persons convicted by the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court are promptly re-tried, in full conformity with international standards for fair trial; all allegations of torture or other ill-treatment should be impartially and thoroughly investigated and where persons were convicted solely on the basis of “confessions” obtained through torture, their convictions must be quashed;

  • Take effective measures to prohibit and prevent all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and ensure that those suspected of such actions are investigated and, where sufficient admissible evidence is found, tried in proceedings that adhere to international fair trial standards;

  • End arbitrary arrests and all harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, including lawyers who are seeking to uphold their own and others’ rights;

  • Amend the law relating to the Federal Supreme Court in order to institute a right of appeal to a higher judicial tribunal, guarantee the court’s independence and bring its proceedings into conformity with the requirements of international fair trial standards, including by reaffirming that statements or “confessions” obtained under torture or other duress may never be used as evidence except in the context of the perpetrators facing prosecution;

  • Amend and make consistent with international human rights law, all legislation that unduly  restricts the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly; accede to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocols, as well as the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance.


Amnesty International is calling on the international community, especially those states that enjoy close political, diplomatic, trade and economic, and other relations with the UAE, including the USA, the UK and other EU countries to:

  • Ensure that business and other interests are not prioritised over serious human rights violations, and use their influence to urge the UAE government to ensure that all prisoners of conscience are released immediately and unconditionally and that the UAE authorities observe their  obligations under international law to guarantee freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of association and assembly and other human rights.


Excerpts from “There is no freedom here”: Silencing dissent in the United Arab Emirates

AI index: MDE 25/018/2014

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