In an open Letter published on 15 april, a cross-party coalition of EU Parliamentarians have called for urgent action to be taken by the European External Action Service (EEAS) to address the widespread and systematic human rights abuses committed by the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The letter, which was published in light of the upcoming EU-UAE Human Rights Dialogues this summer, calls for the release of all prisoners of conscience, for an end to torture and ill-treatment of these prisoners, as well as for the protection of prisoners’ families from collective punishment.
“As Members of the European Parliament, we are writing to express our deepest concern over the ongoing human rights violations in the United Arab Emirates, particularly with regards to the systematic crackdown on freedom of speech and expression and the subsequent retaliation received during detention.” the letter, addressed to High Representative and Vice President Josep Borrell, reads.
This will be the first time since 2017 that such a dialogue takes place between the EU and the UAE.
In their statement, the 17 Parliamentarians draw attention to a wide range of human rights abuses committed by the Emirati government. After detailing cases of systematic torture and ill-treatment of detainees at the hands of security forces, the letter goes on to highlight concerns over the practice of indefinite detention of political prisoners, who have served their full sentences, but have been denied release. Following the historic pardoning of four activists this week, there are currently at least nine further prisoners of conscience held beyond their sentence in the UAE.
In this context, the letter highlights the case of Amina Al-Abdouli, a female activist who, “[…] after being forcibly disappeared for eight months, during which she had no access to legal counsel and contact with the outside world, was sentenced to five years for a tweet she posted.” In November 2020, Amina Al-Abdouli completed her unjust sentence, despite this, she has not been reunited with her family, but remains behind bars in an Abu Dhabi prison.
The letter mentions the October 2018 resolution on the UAE, in which the European Parliament raised concerns on the situation of human rights defenders, including the activist Ahmed Mansoor, and points out that “[s]ince then, the letter continues “the situation in the country for human rights defenders has not improved, in fact it has deteriorated as many government critics endure abysmal detention conditions that infringe existing international laws.”
In their concluding paragraphs the Parliamentarians call upon the EU to take decisive action: “In light of the upcoming EU-UAE Human Rights Dialogue, the European Union is presented with an important opportunity to raise the picture hitherto painted to the Emirati government and demand accountability for actions committed.
“Furthermore, to ensure that the discussions of the dialogue are duly cemented, we press the European External Action Service to set up a follow-up mechanism which sees the regular monitoring of the human rights situation in the United Arab Emirates in the period succeeding the Dialogue.
As Members of the European Parliament, we remain committed to the protection, promotion, and fulfilment of all human rights in the United Arab Emirates.”