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What do you think about the conditions of detention in UAE prisons ?

comply with international standards
Do not comply with international standards
I don't know
Total votes: 41
The voting for this poll has ended on: November 30, 2016


Geneva, April 3, 2015

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in its article 19 that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” and the Arab Charter on Human Rights on its article 32 “guarantees the right to information and to freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any medium, regardless of geographical boundaries.”

Although its commitments during the Universal Periodic Review of the Council of Human Rights in June 2013, in the domestic level, the situation is not so easy. The UAE was expected:

  1. To respect the right to freedom of expression and association and to reduce the recourse to judicial proceedings against persons who exercise these rights
  2. To take measures to protect human rights, journalists and minorities from discrimination, persecution and intimidation
  3. To improve the legislative framework to consolidate the rights of expression
  4. To implement the articles of the Constitution relating to freedom of expression

Nevertheless, the UAE Government restricted the rights to freedom of expression and prosecuted critics using provisions of the Penal Code and the 2012 cybercrimes law. Indeed, in the Emirates, there are two main legal frameworks which threaten freedom of expression:

Firstly, the repressive 2012 cybercrime law which prosecutes critics of the UAE Government through social networks like Twitter, Facebook and e-mail messages, etc. The UAE authorities used provisions of the Penal Code and the cybercrimes law of 2012 to stifle dissent and to prosecute and imprison government critics on charges including "instigating hatred against the state", and "contacting foreign organizations", based on comments they had posted on social media. For example, the case of Osama al-Najjar, who was prosecuted on charges arising from his use of Twitter to campaign for the release of his father, Hussain Ali al-Najjar, a political prisoner who was sentenced to ten years in the "UAE 94" trial. It seems that the arrest of Osama came after numerous tweets and media interventions about the arrest of his father and the conditions of detention and torture.

As a reminder, the Abdullah al-Hadidi was tried in May 22, 2013 ten months in prison because of his tweets on the issue of "Emirates 94" group where his father Abdul Rahman Al-Hadidi is one of its members. It was expressed in his tweets concern about the cases of torture.

The UAE's State Security Court has issued on November 18, 2013 to the imprisonment of blogger "Waleed Al Shehhi" for a period of two years in jail and force, and fined 500 thousand AED, equivalent to $ 137 thousand, and on the back of blog entries by Shehhi related to the trial of 94 Emirati activists through which he ask the UAE authorities a fair trial of political prisoners and criticized the lack of investigation in cases of torture cited by activists during the trial.

Secondly, the counter-terrorism law of August 2014 gave the UAE authorities the power to prosecute peaceful critics, political dissidents and human rights activists as terrorists. This new law adds to a series of restrictive laws in UAE, which seeks to suppress freedom of expression and the use of terrorism as a pretext to lay siege to the opponents and repress them. With the lack of a clear definition of terrorism, the Government is allowed to call anyone who opposes its policy of terrorism to restrict freedom of expression. This new anti-terrorism law prescribed severe penalties, including death, for people convicted of terrorism, defined broadly to include any acts resulting in a "terrorist outcome," such as declaring by any public means "enmity to the state or regime" or "non-allegiance to its leadership".

It’s important to note that the UAE authorities are continuously and increasingly, restricting personal freedoms and freedom of speech, press, assembly and association. The status of the media and freedom of expression in the United Arab Emirates is very hard. In 2014, online censorship is getting extensive in the UAE. The Government seems to continue its efforts to silence dissent and restrict its rights of freedom of expression, association and assembly. Many activists in social networks and journalists, especially foreign journalists working for UAE, were its victims.

The legal framework regulating the right to freedom of expression is unique. Effectively, restrictions on freedom of expression and the internet are also severe. The Penal Code includes loosely worded legal provisions which have been used to prosecute those expressing criticism of the UAE authorities. For example, the article 176 of the Penal Code provides for up to five years imprisonment for "whoever publicly insults the State President, its flag or national emblem", and the article 8 of the Penal Code widens the application of the provision to include the Vice President, members of the Supreme Council of the Federation, and other top State authorities.

A number of websites used by human rights defenders, bloggers and online activists have been blocked by the UAE authorities, and email and twitter accounts have been hacked and blocked. The security authorities in the UAE block Web sites that are critical of state policies on an ongoing basis, such as the Emirates Center for Human Rights, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Araby 21, the new Gulf Emirates, UAE 71 and many others.

The UAE Government continued a wave of arrests of activists because of Tweets or statements to the media or dissemination of news and information on the general situation of the country. It attempts to silence critics and crush freedom of expression by resorting to deeply repressive tactics will backfire. Many activists are arbitrarily lock up indefinitely without any charge, or are detained solely for peaceful expression, so, they must be immediately and unconditionally released.

The case of the three women, the three sisters, Asma Khalifa al-Suwaidi, Mariam Khalifa al-Suwaidi and Alyaziyah Khalifa al-Suwaidi highlights restrictions on freedom of expression. The three sisters disappeared after the the security forces of Abu Dhabi summoned them on February 15, after speaking out about their brother, who is a prisoner of conscience, on social media. In fact, the sisters spoke passionately on the Internet for the release of their brother without abuse or violation of the law. Dr. Issa Al-Suwaidi, is a Former Director of the Abu Dhabi Educational Zone, sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in the so-called and widely known as the “UAE 94” trial.

Afterwards, they never came home, they have had no contact with their family, their fate and whereabouts have remained unknown.

The International Centre for Justice and Human Rights recalls the UAE authorities to: 

  1. Respect the right of citizens to enjoy freedom of expression in accordance with the UAE Constitution and its ratification charters
  2. Respect the right of the Emiratis to freedom of expression and avoid confusion between terrorism and the peaceful opposition
  3. Undertake reforms in the media sector and amend the legislative framework to conform to international law
  4. Review the new terrorism law until it becomes consistent with international standards on human rights as well as the law on cybercrime of 2012 and repeal restrictive and abusive sections
  5. Fight against terrorism without using terrorism as a cover to limit and to adopt unfair laws to restrict freedom of expression and to oppress the opponents
  6. Release all prisoners of conscience judged because of their exercise of freedom of expression guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Arab Charter on Human Rights
  7. Implement its commitments made at the Council of Human Rights, particularly point: 128-106 requiring the repeal of the federal law of 1980 on publications and modify all other laws to ensure compliance with the disposition of international law on human rights related to freedom of expression
  8. Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) adopted in 1966
  9. Up control over the media organs and internet
  10. Stop unfair trials against users of social networks on the basis of their opinions

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