The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of the United Arab Emirates on 25 January 2022. The communication remained confidential for 60 days, during which time the Government was expected to respond. The Government did not respond during this period, and any reply, if sent, will be available on the UN communications database.
This is a shorter version of the original communication.
Topic: The inclusion on a terrorist list of two human rights defenders, Mr. Hamad Mohammed Al-Shamsi and Mr. Mohammed Saqr Al-Zaabi; and academics and activists Mr. Ahmed Mohammed Al-Shaiba Al- Nuaimi, and Mr. Saeed Nasser Al-Tenaiji. The four individuals currently live in self-imposed exile. They are part of the ‘UAE 94’, a group of 94 lawyers, human rights defenders and academics who were convicted and sentenced to prison in July 2013 on charges of allegedly plotting to overthrow the Government.
Mr. Hamad Mohammed Al-Shamsi is the executive director of the Emirates Detainees Advocacy Center (EDAC), a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of Emirati political prisoners and documents and reports cases of human rights abuses, including enforced disappearances. He is based in Turkey. Mr. Mohammed Saqr Al-Zaabi is a former public prosecutor, former president of the Emirates Jurists Association and member of the Advisory Board of human rights organisation
ALQST, a FIDH member organisation. Mr. Al-Zaabi is based in the United Kingdom.
Mr Ahmed Mohammed Al-Shaiba Al-Nuaimi is a writer, education consultant, online activist and president of the International Center for Studies and Development in London, United Kingdom, where he is currently based. Mr. Saeed Nasser Al-Tenaiji is a researcher and current president of the Gulf Center for Studies and Dialogue. We have raised our concerns about the case and trial of the UAE 94 in two letters sent to your Excellency’s Government respectively on 7 November 2012 (ARE
7/2012) and 16 April 2013 (ARE 1/2013). The arrest and detention of 60 defendants in the ‘UAE 94’ trial was deemed arbitrary in Opinion No. 60/2013 by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention during its 68th session, and the Working Group requested their immediate release and the adoption of adequate measures of reparation.
We have also raised our concerns on the Act on Combating Criminal Terrorist Offences and its application including serious effects on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental liberties in the United Arab Emirates in a letter sent to the UAE Government on 13 November 2020 (ARE 6/2020). We also reiterate our recommendation to review the legislation to bring it in line with international human rights standards. We regret that no reply has been received to date.
On 13 September 2021, the UAE Cabinet of Ministers issued the Ministerial Resolution No. 83 of 2021, adding 38 individuals and 13 entities to the Government’s terrorist list, including Messrs. Hamad Mohammed Al-Shamsi, Ahmed Mohammed Al-Shaiba Al-Nuaimi, Mohammed Saqr Al-Zaabi and Saeed Nasser Al-Tenaiji. The decision was ostensibly part of the UAE’s efforts to target and disrupt networks associated with the financing of terrorism and associated activities. The four human rights defenders learned about their terrorist designation only after the Cabinet of Ministers issued its decision, they did not have access to the evidence produced and examined to reach such decision, could not defend themselves and the decision is not subject to appeal.
The four individuals had been previously charged and sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison on 2 July 2013, for allegedly violating article 180 of the Penal Code, which prohibits “founding, organising or operating a group that aims to overthrow the country’s political system”, after a mass trial reportedly lacking minimum international standards of fair trial and due process.
The two human rights defenders and two academics and members of their families have reported various forms of harassment and intimidation, including travel bans, surveillance, restrictions on education and employment and passport revocations.
On 5 November 2021, Mr. Al-Nuaimi’s son with quadriplegia, who was subject to a travel ban since 2014, reportedly as a form of apparent reprisal against his father, died in a UAE hospital. He had been separated from his father for nine years and the rest of his family for at least seven years.
In the communication we expressed grave concerns about the inclusion on the Government’s terrorist list of Mr. Al-Shamsi, Mr. Al-Shaiba Al Nuaimi, Mr. Al-Zaabi and Mr. Al- Tenaiji, which seem to be in relation to their legitimate human rights activities and appear to be aimed at undermining their credibility. We express further concerns about the apparent lack of evidence provided to substantiate their designations as terrorists, the absence of adequate safeguards to prevent misuse of listing procedures and the lack of clear means to guarantee the rights of those subject to national-level listing processes and sanctions and about the fact that the decision taken by the Cabinet of Ministers in absentia cannot be appealed.
We reiterate the concerns expressed in our letter dated 13 November 2020 (ARE 6/2020) about the counter-terrorism law, and that the executive branch could approve the proscription of any entity as a terrorist entity without being required to legally demonstrate that there is objective reason to believe that such a designation is justified, despite the far-reaching implications that such a designation may have. In that letter we also warned that the law could contribute to an arbitrary and unreasonable use of these powers, potentially leading to the criminalisation or persecution of organisations or individuals that are not actually involved in any terrorist activity.