The United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities must halt the ongoing crackdown on peaceful dissent Amnesty International said today.
Some 35 men are believed to have been detained since 16 July – eight since the organization’s urgent appeal for at least 27 men issued yesterday.
The whereabouts of all 35 are unknown, and they are thought to be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment which Amnesty International has previously documented in the UAE.
The current wave of arrests started after a 15 July announcement by Abu Dhabi’s Public Prosecutor that a group of people would be investigated for plotting “crimes against state security”, “opposing the UAE constitution and ruling system”, and having ties to "foreign organizations and agendas”.
The recent arrests bring the total number of men arrested since March 2012 to 50.
"This wave of arrests is deeply disturbing and appears to be part of an ongoing attack on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly in the UAE,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International
“The UAE authorities must disclose the location of all 35 men immediately and allow them to contact their families. Incommunicado detention is known to facilitate torture and other ill-treatment.”
Among the detained are three lawyers: Dr Mohamed ‘’Abdullah al-Roken, a defence lawyer in last year’s prominent case of five political activists – known as the ‘UAE 5’; fellow human rights defender and former head of the UAE Jurists' Association Dr Mohamed al-Mansoori and Salem al-Shehhi.
All three men are believed to be prisoners of conscience, held solely in connection with the peaceful expression of their views or for carrying out their professional duties.
"Mohamed al-Roken, Mohamed al-Mansoori and Salem al-Shehhi, and any others held solely for peacefully expressing their conscientiously held beliefs or for carrying out their professional duties must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Harrison.
“Any others held must be released unless they are to be tried promptly on an internationally recognizable criminal charge in full accordance with international fair trial standards. As a minimum, the authorities must ensure that all are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and have access to lawyers of their choice, their families and all necessary medical treatment.”
Some of the 35 men arrested by state security officers (Amn al-Dawla) are said to be associated with the Reform and Social Guidance Association (al-Islah). A non-violent group engaged in peaceful political debate in the UAE for many year, al-Islah advocates greater adherence to Islamic precepts.
Political parties are not formally permitted in the UAE. Political dissent is not readily tolerated and restrictions on freedom of expression and association have been increasing in recent months.
The authorities have closed down at least one online discussion forum and blocked access from the UAE to some political websites.
Most people suspected of political offences in the UAE are arrested by the Amn al-Dawla and held incommunicado at undisclosed locations for typically about a week before they are allowed to make brief and limited phone calls to their families.
Amnesty International has documented at least two cases in which detainees, denied any contact with the outside, were tortured by security officials. Others have spoken following their release from custody of being tortured or otherwise ill-treated.
On 17 July 2012, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed his concern at the accelerating crackdown on human rights defenders in the UAE.