31 December 2018 – Today, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Federal Supreme Court upheld prominent human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor’s 10-year prison sentence. As a result of the rejection of Mansoor’s appeal, he will serve out his prison sentence in the Emirates’ Al-Wathba prison, where he has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest on 20 March 2017. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) condemns the court’s decision in the strongest terms and calls on the Emirati government to immediately release Ahmed Mansoor and drop all charges against him.
Ahmed Mansoor’s sentence stems from a conviction handed down on 30 May 2018 on charges of insulting the “status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols,” and using his social media account to spread “hatred and sectarianism,” as well as “false information.” The Emirati government brought these charges against Mansoor after arresting him on 20 March 2017 and subjecting him to a prolonged enforced disappearance. During that time, it is believed that Mansoor was kept in solitary confinement and denied access to a lawyer, and denied contact with his family, with the exception of two brief visits from his wife.
The charges relate to comments Mansoor had made on Twitter calling for the release of fellow Emirati human rights defender Osama Al-Najjar, who had been kept in prison despite completing his three-year sentence in March 2017. They also related to comments Mansoor made concerning imprisoned economist Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith, who had been given a 10-year prison sentence on free expression charges of his own.
Ahmed Mansoor’s final appeals hearing comes on the same day that Bahrain’s Court of Cassation heard prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab’s final appeal in his own trial related to tweets and retweets. Many believe that the timing of the hearings – 31 December – is intended to minimize global media and diplomatic attention, as it comes during the holiday season for many Western capitals. This tactic has been used by Gulf States as a way to avoid international scrutiny even as officials in these countries carry out a wide range of political and human rights abuses, including sentencing dissidents to death.
Husain Abdulla, ADHRB’s Executive Director: “Today’s verdict is truly disappointing and confirms the criminalization of free expression in the United Arab Emirates. The charges against Ahmed Mansoor are spurious and any government that abides by international standards of human rights and fair trials would see they violate the fundamental right to free and peaceful expression. We urge the international community to take a strong stance in support of his case and to call upon the Emirati government to immediately release Ahmed Mansoor and drop all charges against him.”
The upholding of Ahmed Mansoor’s charges is part of a broader criminalization of free expression in the Gulf Cooperation Council states and indicates the UAE’s ongoing disrespect of the fundamental right to free expression. We call upon the Emirati government to immediately release Ahmed Mansoor, void his sentence, and drop any and all remaining charges against him. We further urge the UAE to bring its domestic laws into accord with international standards of human rights, including the right to expression.