On the 31st of December, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Federal Supreme Court upheld prominent human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor’s 10-year prison sentence. As a result of the rejection of Mansoor’s appeal, he will serve out his prison sentence in the Emirates’ Al-Wathba prison, where he has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest on 20 March 2017.
Ahmed Mansoor’s sentence stems from a conviction handed down on 30 May 2018 on charges of insulting the “status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols,” and using his social media account to spread “hatred and sectarianism,” as well as “false information.” These charges were brought against him for posts he made on his Facebook and Twitter accounts calling for the release of fellow Emirati human rights defender Osama Al-Najjar, who had been kept in prison despite completing his three-year sentence in March 2017. They also related to comments Mansoor made concerning imprisoned economist Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith, who had been given a 10-year prison sentence on free expression charges of his own.He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined 1,000,000 Emirati Dirham (approximately USD $270,000).
The Emirati government brought these charges against Mansoor after arresting him on 20 March 2017. Since then he was been held most of the time in solitary confinenmet and was subjected to prolonged enforced disappearance. During that time, it is also believed that Mansoor denied access to a lawyer, and denied contact with his family, with the exception of two brief visits from his wife.
However, this is not Ahmed’s first conviction. In 2011, he had been already sentenced and later on pardoned by the UAE President, to three years in prison for solely for expressing his personal opinion. He was charged of “insulting UAE leaders by delivering speeches and public lectures” and “providing false reports about the UAE that would harm the policies of the state”.
Ahmed Mansoor’s final appeals hearing comes on the same day that Bahrain’s Court of Cassation heard prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab’s final appeal in his own trial related to tweets and retweets. Many believe that the timing of the hearings – 31 December – is intended to minimize global media and diplomatic attention, as it comes during the holiday season for many Western capitals. This tactic has been used by Gulf States as a way to avoid international scrutiny even as officials in these countries carry out a wide range of political and human rights abuses, including sentencing dissidents to death.
The upholding of Ahmed Mansoor’s charges is part of a broader criminalization of free expression in the Gulf Cooperation Council states and indicates the UAE’s ongoing disrespect of the fundamental right to free expression. We call upon the Emirati government to immediately release Ahmed Mansoor, void his sentence, and drop any and all remaining charges against him.
The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) condemns the court’s decision and urges the UAE to bring its domestic laws into accord with international standards of human rights, including the right to expression.