UAE Uses Counter-Terrorism Laws to Suppress Dissents and Civil Society

The United Arab Emirates has exploited anti-terrorism laws to ban political activities and freedom of expression, suppress dissent and destroy the foundations of the rule of law.

Last September, the Emirati authorities classified 4 prominent Emirati dissidents in exile as supporters of “terrorism.” This step was an attempt to prevent their activism and end freedom of expression under the guise of fighting terrorism.

The list of “people, entities and organisations supporting terrorism” included at least one person who was detained for more than a year without being brought before a judge or allowed for legal representation, “which further indicates the UAE’s blatant disregard for the rule of law.”

The four exiled Emirati dissidents, who were included by the UAE in the list of terrorism, are Hamad Al-Shamsi, Mohamed Saqr Al-Zaabi, Ahmed Al-Shaiba Al-Nuaimi and Saeed Al-Tunaiji.

The direct effects of this step resulted in freezing assets, confiscating property, and criminalizing the communications of their relatives residing in the Emirates with them. Opponents told our organisation that the authorities threatened their families with prosecution for “communicating with terrorists”.

The four Emirati dissidents belong to a group of 94 political activists known as the “UAE 94”, whom the Emirati authorities accused of committing crimes against national security in 2013 based on their peaceful statements and affiliations.

As human rights advocates in the UAE, we see that it has repeatedly demonstrated the outrageous methods it uses to combat terrorism as a pretext to suppress opposition and legitimate criticism, and for several years the state has sent a clear message to its citizens and residents of either supporting us or you are a terrorist, in reference to George Bush’s statement in the Gulf War, “It’s either with us or against us.”

We stress that the United States, Britain and other international partners consider the UAE an active ally in combating terrorism, its financing and violent extremism throughout the region, despite the fact that the UAE’s criminal justice system is seriously flawed, and the UAE uses broad anti-terror legislation to arbitrarily suppress dissidents and activists.

The Global Rights Watch Organisation calls for an immediate end to the UAE’s use of its abusive counter-terrorism systems to prosecute peaceful and human rights opponents, and to guarantee the right of everyone to a fair trial.

We emphasize that the UAE’s unjust and complete disregard of the rule of law should be alarming enough to the US, UK and other countries that consider the UAE a reliable partner in the fight against terrorism in the region.

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