UAE: Open letter to the Emirati authorities to free human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor on his 50th Birthday

Open Letter
ar en

Your Excellency, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan,

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has recently announced multiple projects promoting pluralism and tolerance both at home and abroad. 2019 has been declared the ‘Year of Tolerance’ and in 2020, Dubai will host the World Expo trade fair, under the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.’ Upon Dubai’s selection for this exhibition in 2013, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said: “[w]e renew our promise to astonish the world in 2020.” We welcome these public commitments to tolerance and open-mindedness.

It is in this same spirit that we, the undersigned, call upon the UAE government to immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, whose life we believe may be at risk following beatings and hunger strikes to protest deplorable and inhumane prison conditions. The Authorities have convicted and imprisoned him solely for his human rights work and for exercising his right to freedom of expression, which is also protected under the UAE’s Constitution. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience.

Before his imprisonment, Mansoor was known as ‘the last human rights defender left in the UAE’ on account of his fearless work to document human rights violations in the country. His willingness to speak out publicly in defence of human rights on his blog, via social media and in interviews with international media was an example to us all. He is also an engineer, a poet, and a father of four. He is on the advisory boards of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Human Rights Watch and was awarded the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

UAE authorities arrested Mansoor on 20 March 2017 at his home and subjected him to enforced and involuntary disappearance for over six months, with no access to a lawyer and sparse contact with his family, who did not know his exact whereabouts. The authorities held him in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time.

Shortly after his arrest, a group of United Nations human rights experts said that the UAE should release him immediately, describing his arrest as “a direct attack on the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the UAE.” They expressed fear that his arrest “may constitute an act of reprisal for his engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, for the views he expressed on social media, including Twitter.”

A year later, on 29 May 2018, Mansoor was sentenced under vague charges of "insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols, including its leaders”, "publishing false information to damage the UAE’s reputation abroad” and “portraying the UAE as a lawless land.” He received a sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of 1,000,000 UAE Dirhams (US$272,000), three years of probation after completion of his sentence, and confiscation of his electronic devices. On 31 December 2018, the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court upheld his conviction and sentence.

The UAE’s Government actions against Mansoor have been widely criticised. For instance, on 4 October 2018, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning Mansoor’s “harassment, persecution and detention, and calling for his release.” In May 2019, after he ended a month-long hunger strike to protest his unjust conviction and his detention conditions in Al-Sadr prison, a group of UN Special Rapporteurs stated that his conditions of detention “violate[d] basic international human rights standards and risk[ed] taking an irrevocable toll on Mr Mansoor’s health.” In September 2019, Mansoor was severely beaten for continuing his protests and he undertook yet another hunger strike. Nevertheless, he continues to be held in an isolation cell with no running water or bed and is not permitted to leave his cell except for family visits.

In September 2019, the annual report of the UN Secretary General about reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN mechanisms cited Mansoor’s case. This was the fourth time that the Secretary General had denounced reprisals against him, having previously raised concerns in 2014, 2017 and 2018.

It is a tragedy and a disgrace for the UAE that this Tuesday, on 22 October of the UAE’s ‘Year of Tolerance’, Ahmed Mansoor will turn 50, alone in a prison cell in such deplorable conditions, simply for exercising his fundamental right to free speech and for speaking out against human rights violations.

Mansoor’s imprisonment is part of a larger and growing pattern of repression in the UAE. Since 2011, the authorities have embarked on an unprecedented campaign of repression on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association in the country, shrinking the space for peaceful dissent to near-obliteration. Authorities have used privately manufactured technologies, such as those made by NSO Group, for the unlawful targeted surveillance of human rights defenders, including Mansoor, in order to monitor and clamp down on dissent. The authorities have arrested, detained, and prosecuted activists, human rights defenders and other critics of the government, including prominent lawyers, judges and academics, on broad and sweeping national security-related or cybercrime charges and in proceedings that fail to meet international fair trial standards.

The UAE has publicly declared itself a champion of tolerance in the Middle East and the world. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it has an obligation to protect the rights of its citizens and residents. For this reason, we call upon the UAE government to uphold these principles, and to release Ahmed Mansoor without further delay.

Yours sincerely,

Read more

  • Co-signatories

    A Common Future, Cameroon
    Abraham’s Children Foundation, Nigeria
    ACAT-Germany - Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture
    Access Center for Human Rights, France
    Access Now
    Accountabilitylab Niger
    African Monitoring Observatory on Climate, Waters, Earth, and Cultures (AMOClimWEC), Benin
    American Association of University Professors - New York University Chapter
    American Association of University Professors (AAUP)
    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    Amis des Etrangers au Togo (ADET)
    Amman Center for Human Rights Studies, Jordan
    Amnesty International
    Angels in the Field, India
    Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
    ARTICLE 19
    Asociación de Tecnología, Educación, Desarrollo, Investigación, Comunicación (TEDIC), Paraguay
    Association de defense des libertas individuelles, Tunisia
    Association For Promotion Sustainable Development, India
    Association for Victims of Torture in UAE Switzerland
    Badhon Manob Unnayan Sangstha, Bangladesh
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    Center for Civil Liberties, Ukraine
    Center for Innovative and Pragmatic Development Initiative (CIPDI)
    Centre d’Appui a l’Education et au Developpement Communautaire (CEDECO), Democratic Republic of the Congo
    Centre for Social Mobilization and Sustainable Development, Ghana
    Centro de Estudios y apoyo al desarrollo Local, Bolivia
    Comision Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, Dominican Republic
    Committee for the Respect of Liberties and Human Rights in Tunisia
    Community Initiative for Social Empowerment - CISE Malawi
    Community Uplift and Welfare Development-CUWEDE, Uganda
    Conacce Chaplains, Colombia
    Construisons Ensemble le Monde, Democratic Republic of the Congo
    Coordination Maghrébine des Organisations des Droits Humains , Morocco
    Daniel Iroegbu Global Health Foundation, Nigeria
    Educating Girls and Young Women for Development, Zambia
    English PEN
    Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM)
    European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
    FINESTE, Haiti
    Fraternity Foundation for Human Rights, Germany
    Freedom Forum, Nepal
    Freedom Now Morocco
    Front Line Defenders
    Fundacion CELTA, Venezuela
    Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos (INREDH), Ecuador
    Fundacion TEA Trabajo Educacion Ambiente, Argentina
    Future Leaders Network Gambia Chapter, Gambia
    Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties, Switzerland
    Global Learning for Sustainability, Uganda
    Global Participe, Congo
    Global Vision Democratic Republic of the Congo
    Global Youth on the Quest for Developmental Networking, Gambia
    Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
    Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR), Australia
    HOPE Worldwide-Pakistan
    Human Rights Defenders Network- ACPDH, Burundi
    Human Rights First
    Human Rights Foundation
    Human Rights Watch
    Humena for Human Rights and Civic Engagement, Egypt
    Hunger Reduction International, Somalia
    Innovation for Change - Middle East and North Africa
    International Campaign for Freedom in the United Arab Emirates (ICFUAE)
    International Center for Supporting Rights and Freedoms, Switzerland
    International Centre for Justice and Human Rights, Switzerland
    International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
    International Legal Initiative Kazakhstan
    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    International Youth Alliance for Peace, Sri Lanka
    Iraqi Network for Social Media (INSM)
    Jeunesse Assistance, Niger
    Justice Acess Point, Uganda
    Kaimbu Sex Workers Association, Kenya
    Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law
    Legal Clinic Adilet, Kyrgyzstan
    Liberia Freedom of Information Coalition
    Ligue Burundaise pour les Droits de la Femme
    Maharat Foundation, Lebanon
    Martin Ennals Foundation
    MENA Rights Group
    Middle East Studies Association of North America
    Most at Risk Populations in Uganda (MARPS)
    National Campaing for Sustainable Development, Nepal
    National Sudanese Women Association
    Norwegian PEN
    Omani Association for Human Rights
    Organisation Marocaine des Droits Humains (OMDH), Morocco
    Pakistan NGOs Forum
    Palestinian Center for Communication and Development Strategies, Palestine
    Participatory Research Action Network-PRAN, Bangladesh
    PEN America
    PEN Canada
    PEN International
    PEN Iraq
    Plateforme d’Autonomisation des organisations de jeunesses de Côte d’ivoire (Paojci)
    Promo-LEX Association, Moldova
    Qurium Media Foundation, Sweden
    Reconciliation and Development Agency, Cameroon
    Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
    Resilient Youth for Change, Zambia
    Rights Realization Centre
    Rise Initiative for Human Advocacy, South Sudan
    Rotel Foundation for Social Development, Nigeria
    Rukiga Forum for Development (RUFODE), Uganda
    Rural Development Foundation, Pakistan
    Salam for Democracy and Human Rights
    Scholars at Risk
    Sentinel for Human Rights
    Sierra Leone School Green Clubs
    Society for Rural Women and Youth Development, Nigeria
    SPEDYA-Africa Togo
    Street Children Empowerment Foundation, Ghana
    Sukaar Welfare Organization Pakistan
    Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
    Terres des Jeunes Togo
    TRIO Uganda
    Tunisian Association For Supporting Minority Rights
    Tunisian League of Defending Human Rights
    Union des Frères pour Alternatif de Développement Intégré (UFADI), Haiti
    Urnammu for Justice and Human Rights, Canada
    Veritas Collective Foundation, Pakistan
    Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State , Tunisia
    Vijana Hope, Democratic Republic of the Congo
    Volunteers Welfare for Community Based Care of Zambia
    Wales PEN Cymru
    Women’s March Global
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
    Young Men Association, Botswana
    Youth Action for Relentless Development Organization, Sierra Leone
    Youth Advocacy Nepal
    Youth for the Mission Jamaica
    Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana

Take action