Dr. Mohammed Ali Saleh al-Mansoori is an Emirati lawyer and former president of the UAE Jurists’ Association. He is also a human rights activist – one who has long faced government harassment for pushing democratic reforms.
As early as October 2007, Emirati authorities imposed an open-ended travel ban on Dr. al-Mansoori in order to prevent him from leaving the country; a year later, in March 2008, they confiscated his passport. The following summer, on 7 June 2009, security forces arrested Dr. al-Mansoori without warrant or charge. A court later released Dr. al-Mansoori on a temporary basis, reaffirming his existing travel ban.
Undeterred, on 20 December 2009, Dr. al-Mansoori appeared on the Al Hiwar television channel to discuss the prevalence of censorship and torture in the UAE. During the interview, he noted that “human rights activists and their jobs are at risk and sometimes they get terminated.” This was a prescient observation – just eight days later, the Crown Prince of Ras al Khaimah dismissed Dr. al-Mansoori from his position as legal advisor to the emirate.
Yet the government wasn’t satisfied with derailing the activist’s legal career. On 16 July 2012, security forces arrested Dr. al-Mansoori as part of their broader campaign against the Emirati reform movement. The next year, on 2 July 2013, the Federal Supreme Court of Abu Dhabi convicted Dr. al-Mansoori in a mass trial of 93 other democratic activists, known together as the “UAE 94.” He was sentenced to a ten-year prison term.
Like many Emirati prisoners of conscience, Dr. al-Mansoori’s plight didn’t end at the gates of Al-Razeen Prison. Throughout his pretrial detention and formal incarceration, Dr. al-Mansoori experienced severe ill-treatment and poor living conditions. Prison officials have allegedly forced Dr. al-Mansoori to stay in solitary confinement for extended periods of time. According to the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), his pretrial detention cell lacked both windows and furniture; it was also continuously lit so as to disorient him and disrupt his sleeping patterns. These conditions led Dr. al-Mansoori to develop symptoms of acute sleep deprivation, including “increased nervousness, irritability, anorexia, weight loss, muscle weakness, short-term memory loss, high blood pressure, dementia, [and an] immune system disorder.” Prison security aggravated Dr. al-Mansoori’s psychological distress by spontaneously raiding his cell, reportedly confiscating “his pajamas, bed sheets, his writings, papers, letters and notebooks” without justification. Additionally, GCHR reports that Al-Razeen prison staff have regularly denied detainees proper access to legal counsel, as well as to food, water, and hygiene products.
For a nearly a decade, the Government of the UAE has worked to ensure that Dr. al-Mansoori pays a steep price for his non-violent dissent. The authorities have even targeted his family, reportedly fabricating charges against Dr. al-Mansoori’s 23-year-old daughter after she went to visit him at the Supreme Court. Most recently, the government went so far as to extend Dr. al-Mansoori’s prison time by a year and three months: on 21 January 2014, the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court convicted him in another mass trial, this time on charges related to allegedly establishing an “international” branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Amnesty International criticized these proceedings for numerous due process violations. They consider Dr. al-Mansoori to be a prisoner of conscience held solely for exercising his right to free expression.
The Government of the UAE must uphold its international commitments, ceasing all acts of retaliation against human rights defenders and releasing imprisoned activists like Dr. Mohammed Ali Saleh al-Mansoori.
Sam Jones is an Advocacy Fellow at ADHRB.