UN human rights experts are urging the authorities in the United Arab Emirates to immediately free the prize-winning human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor and annul the 10-year prison sentence imposed on him.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms Mr. Mansoor’s conviction and appeal to the Emirati authorities to reverse the decision against him and release him immediately,” the experts said.
Mr. Mansoor, who won the Martin Ennals Award in 2015, was convicted of defaming the UAE through the use of social media, and promoting sectarian hatred that would damage the country’s social harmony and unity.
The charges followed a number of tweets in which he had called for the release of detained human rights defenders Osama Al-Najjar and Nasser bin Ghaith, and had also drawn attention to human rights violations in Yemen and Egypt.
“The sentencing of Ahmed Mansoor represents an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression and freedom of association, as well as on human rights defenders in the United Arab Emirates as a whole,” said the UN experts.
“Not only is such a sentence unreasonably severe but Mr. Mansoor should never have been detained in the first place for legitimately exercising the freedoms that all people, including human rights defenders, are entitled to,” the experts said.
Mr. Mansoor has experienced physical assaults, death threats, government surveillance and has been subject to a travel ban since 2011 to prevent him engaging in person with UN mechanisms.
His trial ended on 29 May 2018 when, in addition to the prison sentence, he was fined one million dirhams (approximately US$272,000) by the Abu Dhabi Court of Appeals. He had been arrested on 20 March 2017 and was kept in detention in an unknown location for almost a year until the first hearing of his case on 14 March 2018.
He had been kept in solitary confinement for long periods, and even during his trial the location of his detention was not disclosed. Mr. Mansoor was also allegedly unable to appoint a lawyer of his choice.
“The charges against Ahmed Mansoor highlight an unabashed and blatant use of overbroad state security legislation to target human rights defenders in the UAE, and considering his cooperation with the Human Rights Council, its Special Procedures, the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and treaty bodies, we are particularly concerned his sentence may constitute an act of reprisal for his engagement with UN human rights mechanisms,” the experts said.