UAE authorities retaliated against detained human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor last year after regional media published a prison letter he wrote describing his abuse in detention and unfair trial, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) have said.
An informed source told the groups that following the letter’s publication in July 2021, UAE authorities moved Mansoor to a smaller and more isolated cell, denied him access to critical medical care, and confiscated his reading glasses, HRW wrote in a statement on Friday.
HRW said that, since Mansoor was detained in March 2017, Emirati authorities have held him mostly incommunicado, isolated him from other prisoners, and denied him a bed and mattress.
The human rights watchdogs called on the UN, as well as the UAE’s allies – the US, the UK and others, to publicly and privately call for an end to Mansoor’s isolation and for his unconditional release.
“Allies have been helping to promote the UAE’s narrative of a tolerant and culturally open country while ignoring rampant abuses, including the legal railroading and ghastly mistreatment of one of its most respected citizens,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“The UN Human Rights Council should not keep silent while its member, the UAE, flagrantly violates human rights standards and blocks UN and other international and independent monitors from accessing its prisons.”
In June 2021, for the first time since 1986, UN member states elected the UAE to serve on the UN Security Council for its 2022-23 term. In October, the UAE won membership on the UN Human Rights Council for a third time.
Mansoor has been held in the al-Sadr prison near Abu Dhabi serving a 10-year sentence handed down on May 29, 2018, by the State Security Chamber of the Abu Dhabi Court of Appeals after an “unfair trial on spurious charges,” HRW said.
In the prison letter published on July 16 by Arabi21, a London-based Arabic news site, Mansoor writes that the authorities held him in indefinite solitary confinement, deprived him of basic necessities, and did not allow him any meaningful contact with other prisoners or the outside world.
In January 2021, HRW and GCHR published the details of his mistreatment in a report titled, The Persecution of Ahmed Mansoor: How the United Arab Emirates Silenced its Most Famous Human Rights Activist.
“Our courageous colleague Ahmed Mansoor is facing very dangerous targeting that threatens his life,” said Khalid Ibrahim, GCHR’s executive director.
“In addition to completely isolating him from the outside world and preventing him from accessing the necessary medical care, authorities are working systematically to psychologically break him down. This requires urgent action by all international mechanisms and governments concerned with human rights to save his life,” Ibrahim said.
The organisations said that the UAE’s state security agency has violated Mansoor’s rights for more than 10 years with arbitrary arrest and detention, death threats, physical assault, government surveillance, and inhumane treatment in custody.
By holding Mansoor in isolation for nearly four years, which amounts to torture, UAE authorities are violating their obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the UAE ratified in 2012, HRW wrote.
Since 2011 HRW and GCHR have documented allegations of abuse including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and torture by state security forces against dissidents and activists who have spoken up about human rights issues.