Salim al-Aradi is a 46-year-old Libyan-Canadian businessman who runs a home appliance company with his brother in the UAE. On 28 August 2014, Salim was vacationing with his family in Dubai when he received a strange phone call at his hotel from an Emirati security officer. Although it was around 2:00 AM, the officer instructed Salim to appear in the lobby for questioning. Salim hung up the phone, went downstairs, and was arrested by the authorities.
The Government of the UAE held Salim in secret, incommunicado detention for the next two months, during which time he was reportedly severely mistreated. According to Salim’s family, they did not know if he was dead or alive until October 2014, when the authorities allowed him to make a phone call. Salim still did not know where he was or why he had been arrested, but he told his family that officials had prevented him from accessing both a lawyer and the Canadian consulate.
The al-Aradis requested assistance from the Canadian embassy and eventually discovered that Salim had been transferred to the al-Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi. The government allowed Salim’s wife to make a single visit under the supervision of security officials. She observed that he looked malnourished and had lost weight. She also noticed that he had a burn mark on his hand, which she interpreted as a sign of torture or ill-treatment. In addition, Salim’s family believes that the prison staff has denied him medical attention for a preexisting spinal condition, which has been exacerbated by his poor living conditions at the prison.
Salim was not the only Libyan citizen to be disappeared by Emirati security services in August 2014. In fact, he wasn’t even the only al-Aradi. The same night as Salim’s arrest, government forces apprehended his brother, Mohamed; by the end of the month, they had detained another eight Libyan businessmen of either American or Canadian dual-citizenship. According to Amnesty International, these individuals represent just a subset of the “dozens of foreign nationals who are subjected to enforced disappearance for months and held without charge in the UAE.”
When Mohamed was released after four months, he claimed that the authorities “systematically” tortured him throughout his detention, employing such methods as electrocution and water boarding. It is uncertain if Salim experienced similar abuse, but during one interrogation, Mohamed reportedly heard the screams of another detainee. The interrogator looked at him and said, “‘Do you hear that? That is your brother screaming.’” In August 2015, Mohamed told The Star newspaper that he has since been informed that “the reason [Salim] was not released is because the marks of torture on his body are so bad that they will require a period of not less than a year to heal and disappear — only then will he be released.”
Even now, after nearly 500 days in prison, Salim has yet to be accused of any crime. On 1 December 2015, Salim told Canadian officials that his case had been transferred to the Prosecutor General for a decision “on releasing him or taking further action against him,” but in the meantime, he has gone on hunger strike in protest of his living conditions. Salim’s family worries that the hunger strike will aggravate his already precarious medical situation.
The enforced disappearance and continued imprisonment of Salim al-Aradi contravenes the UAE’s obligation to refrain from arbitrary detention. The authorities have also prevented Salim from regularly communicating with both his family and the Canadian consulate, in violation of Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The Government of the UAE must immediately release Salim al-Aradi and all other detainees held without charge in the country.
Sam Jones is an Advocacy Fellow at ADHRB.