The United Arab Emirates State Security Service has been committing crimes of forced concealment over the course of years of repression and persecution of anyone who attempts to oppose or express the opinion of the ruling regime. The authorities arrest some 100 well-known politicians, most of whom are reform advocates, human rights campaigners and liberators. Reports by rights associations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have confirmed the systematic persecution of these activists since 2011, where human rights defenders and even members of their families have been subjected to ill-treatment and retaliation, such as enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture, judicial harassment, unfair trials, travel bans and surveillance. They were also forcibly concealed by the authorities for several months and sometimes years before being tried on false charges.
Human rights organizations emphasize that Gulf States have resorted to vague laws and broad provisions in penal codes, criminal procedure laws, cybercrimes and other laws to detain, prosecute and punish individuals.
It also equated peaceful political activities with threats to State security, imposed “severe restrictions” on public gatherings and demonstrations, and banned and dissolved independent non-governmental organizations and political opposition groups.
Articles of the Act, such as article 176, provide for imprisonment “for anyone who publicly insults the heads of State and its flag or national emblem.” This was subsequently extended under article 8 to include more State powers. However, in August 2014, the Government passed a new Anti-Terrorism Act, extending the definition of terrorism to broader peaceful and legitimate activities. In fact, they defined terrorism as “any act that spread terror, harms the public, heads of State or government officials or seeks to destabilize the public order of society.” This more comprehensive definition allows the authorities to prosecute peaceful demonstrators, political opponents and human rights activists as terrorists.
Those who adopt extremist or terrorist thought may be detained indefinitely for “counseling.” Prisoners were detained despite the expiration of their sentences include Imran Ali Al-Harathi, who was due to be released in July 2019, and Abdullah Ibrahim Al-Hilo, conscience‘s prisoner who was due to be released in May 2017. Ahmed Mohamed Mullah’s sentence on State security charges expired in April 2017 and remains in detention.
These are only a few names of prisoners of conscience detained in prison despite the expiration of their sentences. The Emirati authorities refuse to release them despite the passing date of their release, on the pretext that they represent a threat to the national security.
The country’s security authorities are holding several prisons, most notably Al-Wastaba and Al-Razin, in Abu Dhabi, to conceal and torture political detainees, using the means of torture used by the worst prisons in the world.
The UAE Centre for Human Rights also reported that the UAE masks the real numbers of opinion’ prisoners in State prisons and accused it of ignoring demands to show the number of political detainees in UAE prisons, particularly in Al-Razin prison south of the capital Abu Dhabi. Human rights groups describe Al-Razeen prison as “the UAE’s Guantanamo” due to the extent of violations and torture practiced on detainees there.
On the occasion of August 30, the International Day of Enforced Disappearances, human rights and humanitarian organizations and the international community called for intervention to stop the violations of the UAE security apparatus in committing crimes of enforced disappearance against opponents, human rights defenders and individuals who exercise their right to peaceful expression.
In this context, the UAE Centre for Studies and Information reviewed the seriousness of the lack of justice for prisoners of opinion because of violations against political prisoners by the Abu Dhabi authorities, referring to the UAE constitution to “guaranteeing personal freedom and preserving human dignity,” but it requires just policies, social justice, and “judicial” justice that protects the litigants, their rights and property, and on top of all that protects their lives.
The absence of “judicial” justice has led to the arrest of dozens of Arab citizens and residents for their political opinions and criticism of the authorities. The absence of social justice in this way raises tensions and creates a significant gap between citizens and the authorities. Public service and promotion are not granted according to criteria of competence, but rather because of the person’s and his or her family’s affiliation with the security services, as well as other services and rights that the authorities are supposed to deal with in accordance with the principle of equality.
For years, the UAE has faced criticism for imprisoning hundreds of human rights defenders and peaceful politicians, for their demand for political reform that opens the way for democratic elections, but the authorities usually deny committing human rights violations, and affirm their commitment to human rights.