UAE: Strong Ally of the West with a Turbulent Torture Record

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has an extensive history of using torture against those they percieve as a threat; this ‘threat’ most commonly includes human rights defenders, political opposition, religious figures, and journalists. On 19 July 2012, the UAE acceded to the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT), which details obligations that the government must take to prevent the practice of torture. However, the implementation of these measures have not been emphasized. Emirati police and security forces continue to use torture against those who critique the government or pose a threat to their power.

Ahmed Mansoor, a member of the Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa Advisory Committee, was arrested on 20 March 2017 after his home was raided by Emirati police who did not possess a warrant. While under arrest, he was denied access to his family and a defense lawyer. The authorities kept his location undisclosed. After being in custody of the Emirati police for more than a year, the Federal Supreme Court upheld his sentence on 31 December 2018, eliminating any chance of an early release. Mansoor was arrested for criticizing the UAE’s persecution of activists for speech-related offenses. Mansoor used his Twitter account to advocate against human rights violations committed in Egypt and Yemen. He worked alongside other activists to call for the release of political prisoners in their countries in March 2017. While in detention, Mansoor was tortured in ways including being subjected to solitary confinement.

Alya Abdulnoor is a young Emirati woman who was arrested and charged with financing international terrorist groups in July 2015. She was convicted after a record of websites she had visited was presented as evidence. Abdulnoor was not politically active nor was she vocal about her criticism of the government. According to International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR), she was detained in an undisclosed location for four months and subjected to torture. Under torture, she was forced to sign a false confession that was later used to convict her. Abdulnoor was also battling cancer while she was detained. A voice recording of Abdulnoor was leaked out of Al Wathba Prison in May 2018. The recording exposed how Abdulnoor was tortured and deprived of medical care to treat her cancer. She was eventually moved to a specialist hospital; however, the Emirati police transferred her to a non-specialist hospital where she was heavily guarded in a room that had no vents or windows. When her family visited her, they noted that she was chained to the bed and her health was declining. They asked if she could be brought home to spend the remainder of her days in comfort, but their request was declined.

Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith is an Emirati economist, academic, and human rights defender who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in March 2017. He was imprisoned for daring to speak his mind via Twitter in the form of peaceful tweets. He was convicted of spreading false information on the leaders of the UAE and their policies. August of 2015, officers raided his home without a warrant and he was taken to an undisclosed location where he was kept for a year until his hearing before the State Security Chamber of Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi. While detained in the undisclosed location, he was beaten and tortured for days on end. When he told the court of his grievances, the judge dismissed him and turned off his microphone.

Acts of torture are not limited to the UAE. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is infamous for torture allegations and its poor treatment of prisoners. Dawood al-Marhoon was arrested at Al-Damman hospital in May 2012, while he was awaiting treatment for an injury he incurred during a protest. Al-Marhoon was arrested and placed in solitary confinement at a juvenile offenders’ facility when he was just 17 years old. At the facility he was unable to talk to a defense lawyer. He was interrogated for an extensive amount of time and forced to sign a false confession that was later used to convict him for refusing to disclose information on fellow protestors. He was sentenced to a public beheading on 23 September 2016.

The UAE entered a joint coalition with Saudi Arabia and Yemen that allowed them to create a network of secret prisons in UAE controlled areas. These prisons were run by Emirati forces to facilitate and spread systematic torture. Emirati security forces also ordered the abduction of Yemeni citizens who were seen as a threat. These Yemeni citizens were detained in these secret prisons and tortured physically and sexually. Inmates at these prisons have reported being beaten until they lost consciousness, electrically shocked in their genitals, suspended from the ceiling, and blindfolded and bound by their hands and legs for months.

Articles 11,12, and 13 of CAT state that the UAE is required to hold routine investigations on any allegations of torture on any Emirati citizen. The UAE regularly fails to meet these requirements and obligations. The judges blatantly ignore the reports made by victims of torture. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain calls on the the Emirati government to better implement the compulsory requirements that the CAT outlines, regarding torture, cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatments inside and outside Emirati territory.