Recognize Ahmed Mansoor in Manchester
Dear Mayor Burnham,
I am writing to you to request your support for the release of the award-winning Emirati human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, sentenced this week to ten years in prison for his human rights activism. I believe that this will be facilitated by raising awareness of his case by naming a street after him in Manchester.
Ahmed Mansoor is a pro-democracy and human rights campaigner who has publicly expressed criticism of serious human rights violations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Mansoor was sentenced to ten years in prison by the State Security Court in Abu Dhabi on 29 May 2018 for “insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols”, including its leaders, as well as of “seeking to damage the relationship of the UAE with its neighbours by publishing false reports and information on social media.”
Mansoor is the 2015 Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, and a member of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) Advisory Board and Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Advisory Committee. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression, who should be immediately and unconditionally released. There are concerns that Mansoor has been tortured in pre-trial detention that lasted more than one year.
On 20 March 2017, about a dozen Emirati security officers arrested him at his home in Ajman in the early hours of the morning. The UAE’s official news agency, WAM, claimed that Mansoor had been arrested on the orders of the Public Prosecution for Cybercrimes, detained pending further investigation, and that he was accused of using social media websites to: “publish false information and rumours;” “promote [a] sectarian and hate-incited agenda;” and “publish false and misleading information that harms national unity and social harmony and damages the country’s reputation.”
Human rights groups are banned in the UAE and people in the UAE who speak out about human rights abuses are at serious risk of arbitrary detention, imprisonment, and torture and other ill-treatment. Many such people are serving long prison terms or have felt they have no choice but to leave the country.
Before his arrest, Mansoor was the last remaining human rights defender in the UAE who had been in a position to criticise the authorities’ human rights record publicly.
As you are aware, Manchester City Council has developed close commercial links with senior figures in the UAE government, via its stake in the Manchester Life Development Company (MLDC), a joint venture ultimately controlled by the Abu Dhabi United Group for Investment and Development (ADUG). ADUG is owned and controlled by the Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority, whose chair is Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the de facto ruler of the UAE. In addition, Manchester City FC is owned by the deputy Prime Minister of the UAE, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
While Abu Dhabi’s investments may have brought financial benefits to Manchester, this should not preclude criticism of human rights violations in UAE - violations which are starkly at odds with the values and principles that Greater Manchester celebrates as part of its heritage. In recent years, Senior members of Manchester City Council have celebrated Manchester’s long history of standing up for a range of rights-related causes, including the anti-slavery movement, votes for women, and pro-democracy demonstrations in Manchester in 1819. But they have apparently shied away from criticising human rights violations by the UAE and Abu Dhabi authorities with whom their commercial partners are linked.
We support the local residents who are part of the “Ahmed Mansoor Street” campaign, who argued it would be “a fitting honour to bestow upon an individual who embodies so many of the qualities that the city and the wider region celebrates as a key part of its history.”
As the first directly-elected Mayor of Greater Manchester you are in a unique position to show leadership on this issue. In your manifesto for the Mayoralty you referred to Greater Manchester as “the home of radical forward thinking” and expressed your desire to make it “a beacon of social justice for the country.” Your public support for a street named after Ahmed Mansoor, and calling for his immediate and unconditional release, would demonstrate your commitment to this heritage and these ideals.