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UAE: Free prominent human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor now

2017-03-20

Award-winning Emirati human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor has been arrested by security forces in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and taken to an unknown location. Ahmed Mansoor was arrested at his home in Ajman around midnight on 20 March 2017 after security forces, including 10 men and 2 women, stormed his home, confiscated his belongings and arrested him. His whereabouts are unknown and he may be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

Ahmed Mansoor’s arrest and detention in an unknown location is extremely alarming. The UAE authorities routinely torture human rights defenders and other activists whom they detain in secret detention facilities without access to their lawyers or families. His arrest may be linked to a series of tweets he has posted on Twitter in recent days calling for the release of Emirati human rights activist Osama Al-Najjar or to a letter that he signed, along with other activists in the region, addressed to Arab leaders meeting in Jordan at the Arab Summit, calling for the release of all prisoners of conscience in the Middle East.

Ahmed Mansoor is a member of the Advisory Board of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and a member of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division. In March 2011, he and 132 other men and women signed a petition calling for democratic reform in the UAE, including universal suffrage. He was arrested the following month and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment after a grossly unfair trial in which he and four other activists who had called for greater rights in the UAE were jailed on the charge of “insulting officials”. Although pardoned and released later that year, Ahmed Mansoor has been banned from travel and had his passport confiscated ever since.

Following a huge crackdown on human rights defenders in the UAE in recent years, Ahmed Mansoor has been the only independent voice still speaking out through his blog and Twitter account against human rights violations from inside the country. As a result, he has faced repeated intimidation, harassment, and death threats from the UAE authorities or their supporters. In 2015, because of his courageous work, he won the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

Ahmed Mansoor’s arrest is a cruel and devastating blow to human rights in the UAE and demonstrates the authorities’ intent to completely silence human rights defenders at all costs. It exposes the UAE authorities’ rhetoric on human rights as utterly meaningless and shows their complete disdain for the basic principles of international human rights law and standards.

The international community must now end their silence on the human rights abuses in the UAE. The UN various human rights mechanism and Western governments have a duty to uphold international human rights law by placing pressure on the UAE authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Ahmed Mansoor and to stop his harassment once and for all.

The UAE government should guarantee in all circumstances that on-line activists and all human rights defenders in the country are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.