United Arab Emirates : Arrest and disappearance of Mr. Nasser Bin Ghaith

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arrest and disappearance of pro-democracy activist and prominent professor Nasser Bin Ghaith.


ARE 001 / 0815 / OBS 069
Detention in a secret location/
Risk of torture and ill-treatment
United Arab Emirates
August 20, 2015

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), 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 arrest and disappearance of Mr. Nasser Bin Ghaith, a pro-democracy activist and prominent professor, who has been promoting democratic reforms and the respect of freedom of expression in his country for several years.

According to the information received, on August 18, 2015 at around 2 p.m. the State Security Authority arrested Mr. Bin Ghaith while he was leaving his office in Abu Dhabi. Two hours later, around 13 State Security agents in plain clothes conducted house search at Mr. Bin Ghaith’s domicile in the absence of the latter, after he refused to collaborate. The house search lasted for more than four and a half hours, and the agents allegedly seized personal material. During the search, the agents would have put USB sticks amongst his belongings. At around 8.30 p.m. the State Security agents brought him to an unknown location. Since then, his family and his lawyer has not heard from him.

The reason for the arrest remains unknown as of today. His family was not informed of any charges brought against him. Nevertheless, according to local sources, the arrest would be linked to some tweets criticising the Egyptian authorities said to have been written by Mr. Bin Ghaith at the occasion of the second anniversary of the repression of peaceful protesters in Egypt on August 14, 2013 (known as the Rabaa massacre) [1].

The Observatory would like to recall that this would not be the first time that Mr. Ghaith is targeted for expressing his opinions on-line. Indeed, he was detained between April and November 2011 together with four other freedom of expression and democracy activists, including human rights defender and Martin Ennals Award 2015 final nominee Mr. Ahmed Mansoor [2], in a case known as the “UAE5”, for having signed an online petition calling for a democratic reform of the Federal National Council. They were charged under Art. 176 of the Penal code of “publicly insulting” UAE’s rulers. They were pardoned on November 28, 2011 by the UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

The Observatory is deeply concerned about Mr. Ghaith’s physical and psychological integrity, due to previous accusations of alleged use of torture and ill treatment by State Security Authority against detainees held in secret locations. In addition, Mr. Bin Ghaith suffers from high blood pressure and needs to take the necessary medication.

If the alleged accusations were confirmed, this case could be another illustrative example of a wider repression campaign targeting human rights defenders and activists 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 online 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 [3].

The Observatory expresses its concern regarding the arbitrary arrest and secret detention of Mr. Nasser Bin Ghaith, 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.

Actions requested :

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. Nasser Bin Ghaith and all human rights defenders in UAE ;

ii. Release Mr. Nasser Bin Ghaithimmediately 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. Nasser Bin Ghaith and all human rights defenders in UAE ;

iv. Review the “Cybercrimes Law” passed in 2012 in order to guarantee to all UAE citizens their freedom of expression, both off line and online ;

v. Undertake a prompt, immediate, independent, and exhaustive investigation on allegations of acts of torture and ill treatment committed by the State Security Authority against detainees held in secret locations ;

vi. 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” ;

vii.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.

Addresses :

·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 : ihtimam@mopa.ae
·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 : info@primeminister.ae
·Minister of Justice, Sultan bin Saeed Al Badi, Al Khubirah, Sector 93, Street 5, P.O. Box 260, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Fax : +971 2 681 0680. Email, via website : http://ejustice.gov.ae/portal/page/portal/eJustice%20MOJ%20Portal/HomePages/Contact%20Us/Feedback
·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 : mission.uae@ies.itu.int
·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 : consbruxelles@mofa.gov.ae

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of UAE in your respective country.

Geneva-Paris, August 20, 2015

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of human rights refenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

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