UAE: deteriorating health condition and attempt at suicide of imprisoned Syrian HRD Abdulrahman Al-Nahhas (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and another UN expert to the Government of the United Arab Emirates on 17 November 2023. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, giving the Government time to reply. Regrettably, the Government did not reply within this timeframe. If a reply is received, it will be posted on the UN Special Procedures communications database.

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication


Topic: the deteriorating health condition of Syrian human rights defender, Mr. Abdulrahman Al-Nahhas, held in prison since January 2021, and his attempt at suicide.

Mr. Abdulrahman Al-Nahhas is a human rights defender. He is the founder of Insan Rights Watch, which monitors human rights violations and international crimes in Syria. According to the information received, in 2011, Mr. Al-Nahhas was arrested in Syria by State Security forces after he had filmed human rights violations occurring in his hometown in the country. He was released in late 2012 and fled to Egypt. He moved to the UAE in July 2013.

On 23 December 2019, the UAE state security forces arrested Mr. Al-Nahhas from his home in Abu Dhabi, where he was living alone. He was reportedly forcibly disappeared and held incommunicado until his transfer to Al Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi in January 2021. During his incommunicado detention, he was reportedly forced to sign a document while blindfolded, under threat of deportation to Syria. He was also reportedly subjected to various acts of torture. Following his arrest, Mr. Al-Nahhas’ fate or whereabouts was reportedly not communicated to his family. Mr. Al-Nahhas was only permitted to call his family for the first time on 7 January 2021.

On 23 March 2020, Mr. Al-Nahhas was charged with “providing false information about the country to an international organisation” and “communicating with a terrorist organisation.” On 8 September 2021, the State Security Department of the Federal Court ruled to imprison Al-Nahhas for ten years on charges of belonging to a terrorist organisation and insulting the State’s prestige.

Mr. Al-Nahhas was the subject of a previous communication to the Government of the UAE.


Mr. Al-Nahhas’s mental health and physical health have been deteriorating since the start of his arrest and detention. He has made several attempts at complaining about his condition but has reportedly not received any medical attention.

Six months ago, Mr. Al-Nahhas was allegedly subjected to sexual violence in prison. At around the same time, Mr. Al-Nahhas reportedly attempted to commit suicide. Details are not known at present.

Mr. Al-Nahhas’s mental health has reportedly continued to deteriorate severely, particularly after the alleged sexual attacks, to the point where he reportedly depends on the help of his fellow-prisoners for basic daily tasks.


In the communication, we express concern at the reports of apparent medical negligence Mr. Al-Nahhas has been subjected to, as well as allegations of sexual violence against him. We also would like to express concern that his condition in prison has allegedly led to his attempting suicide.

We urge the UAE Government to take all the necessary measures to guarantee the right of Al-Nahhas to receive adequate access to health services and health care, including mental health care.


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