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21 October 2019

Open letter to the Emirati authorities to free human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor on his 50th Birthday

                                                          Ahmed Mansoor


Your Excellency, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan,

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has recently announced multiple projects promoting pluralism and tolerance both at home and abroad. 2019 has been declared the ‘Year of Tolerance’ and in 2020, Dubai will host the World Expo trade fair, under the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.’ Upon Dubai’s selection for this exhibition in 2013, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said: “[w]e renew our promise to astonish the world in 2020.” We welcome these public commitments to tolerance and open-mindedness.

It is in this same spirit that we, the undersigned, call upon the UAE government to immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, whose life we believe may be at risk following beatings and hunger strikes to protest deplorable and inhumane prison conditions. The Authorities have convicted and imprisoned him solely for his human rights work and for exercising his right to freedom of expression, which is also protected under the UAE’s Constitution.  Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience.

Before his imprisonment, Mansoor was known as ‘the last human rights defender left in the UAE’ on account of his fearless work to document human rights violations in the country. His willingness to speak out publicly in defence of human rights on his blog, via social media and in interviews with international media was an example to us all. He is also an engineer, a poet, and a father of four. He is on the advisory boards of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Human Rights Watch and was awarded the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. 

UAE authorities arrested Mansoor on 20 March 2017 at his home and subjected him to enforced and involuntary disappearance for over six months, with no access to a lawyer and sparse contact with his family, who did not know his exact whereabouts. The authorities held him in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time. 

Shortly after his arrest, a group of United Nations human rights experts said that the UAE should release him immediately, describing his arrest as “a direct attack on the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the UAE.” They expressed fear that his arrest “may constitute an act of reprisal for his engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, for the views he expressed on social media, including Twitter.”

A year later, on 29 May 2018, Mansoor was sentenced under vague charges of "insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols, including its leaders”, "publishing false information to damage the UAE’s reputation abroad” and “portraying the UAE as a lawless land.” He received a sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of 1,000,000 UAE Dirhams (US$272,000), three years of probation after completion of his sentence, and confiscation of his electronic devices. On 31 December 2018, the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court upheld his conviction and sentence. 

The UAE’s Government actions against Mansoor have been widely criticised. For instance, on 4 October 2018, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning Mansoor’s “harassment, persecution and detention, and calling for his release.” In May 2019, after he ended a month-long hunger strike to protest his unjust conviction and his detention conditions in Al-Sadr prison, a group of UN Special Rapporteurs stated that his conditions of detention “violate[d] basic international human rights standards and risk[ed] taking an irrevocable toll on Mr Mansoor’s health.” In September 2019, Mansoor was severely beaten for continuing his protests and he undertook yet another hunger strike. Nevertheless, he continues to be held in an isolation cell with no running water or bed and is not permitted to leave his cell except for family visits.

In September 2019, the annual report of the UN Secretary General about reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN mechanisms cited Mansoor’s case. This was the fourth time that the Secretary General had denounced reprisals against him, having previously raised concerns in 2014, 2017 and 2018. 

It is a tragedy and a disgrace for the UAE that this Tuesday, on 22 October of the UAE’s ‘Year of Tolerance’, Ahmed Mansoor will turn 50, alone in a prison cell in such deplorable conditions, simply for exercising his fundamental right to free speech and for speaking out against human rights violations.

Mansoor’s imprisonment is part of a larger and growing pattern of repression in the UAE. Since 2011, the authorities have embarked on an unprecedented campaign of repression on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association in the country, shrinking the space for peaceful dissent to near-obliteration. Authorities have used privately manufactured technologies, such as those made by NSO Group, for the unlawful targeted surveillance of human rights defenders, including Mansoor, in order to monitor and clamp down on dissent. The authorities have arrested, detained, and prosecuted activists, human rights defenders and other critics of the government, including prominent lawyers, judges and academics, on broad and sweeping national security-related or cybercrime charges and in proceedings that fail to meet international fair trial standards.

The UAE has publicly declared itself a champion of tolerance in the Middle East and the world. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it has an obligation to protect the rights of its citizens and residents. For this reason, we call upon the UAE government to uphold these principles, and to release Ahmed Mansoor without further delay.

Yours sincerely,

A Common Future, Cameroon
Abraham's Children Foundation, Nigeria
ACAT-Germany - Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture     
Access Center for Human Rights, France
Access Now       
Accountabilitylab Niger    
African Monitoring Observatory on Climate, Waters, Earth, and Cultures (AMOClimWEC), Benin
American Association of University Professors - New York University Chapter  
American Association of University Professors (AAUP)         
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)       
Amis des Etrangers au Togo (ADET)          
Amman Center for Human Rights Studies, Jordan
Amnesty International      
Angels in the Field, India
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)       
ARTICLE 19      
Asociación de Tecnología, Educación, Desarrollo, Investigación, Comunicación (TEDIC), Paraguay
Association de defense des libertas individuelles, Tunisia
Association For Promotion Sustainable Development, India
Association for Victims of Torture in UAE, Switzerland
Badhon Manob Unnayan Sangstha, Bangladesh
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)    
Center for Civil Liberties, Ukraine
Center for Innovative and Pragmatic Development Initiative (CIPDI)    
Centre d'Appui a l'Education et au Developpement Communautaire (CEDECO), Democratic Republic of the Congo
Centre for Social Mobilization and Sustainable Development, Ghana
Centro de Estudios y apoyo al desarrollo Local, Bolivia
Comision Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, Dominican Republic
Committee for the Respect of Liberties and Human Rights in Tunisia    
Community Initiative for Social Empowerment - CISE Malawi            
Community Uplift and Welfare Development-CUWEDE, Uganda
Conacce Chaplains, Colombia
Construisons Ensemble le Monde, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Coordination Maghrébine des Organisations des Droits Humains, Morocco
Daniel Iroegbu Global Health Foundation, Nigeria
Educating Girls and Young Women for Development, Zambia
English PEN       
Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM)
European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
Fraternity Foundation for Human Rights, Germany
Freedom Forum, Nepal
Freedom Now, Morocco
Front Line Defenders       
Fundacion CELTA, Venezuela
Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos (INREDH), Ecuador
Fundacion TEA Trabajo Educacion Ambiente, Argentina
Future Leaders Network Gambia Chapter, Gambia
Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties, Switzerland
Global Learning for Sustainability, Uganda
Global Participe, Congo
Global Vision     Democratic Republic of the Congo
Global Youth on the Quest for Developmental Networking, Gambia
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)       
Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR), Australia
HOPE Worldwide-Pakistan
Human Rights Defenders Network- ACPDH, Burundi
Human Rights First          
Human Rights Foundation
Human Rights Watch       
Humena for Human Rights and Civic Engagement, Egypt
Hunger Reduction International, Somalia
Innovation for Change - Middle East and North Africa           
International Campaign for Freedom in the United Arab Emirates (ICFUAE)     
International Center for Supporting Rights and Freedoms, Switzerland  
International Centre for Justice and Human Rights, Switzerland
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)    
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders      
International Legal Initiative, Kazakhstan
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)        
International Youth Alliance for Peace, Sri Lanka
Iraqi Network for Social Media (INSM)      
Jeunesse Assistance, Niger
Justice Acess Point, Uganda
Kaimbu Sex Workers Association, Kenya
Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law           
Legal Clinic Adilet, Kyrgyzstan
Liberia Freedom of Information Coalition    
Ligue Burundaise pour les Droits de la Femme         
Maharat Foundation, Lebanon
Martin Ennals Foundation
MENA Rights Group       
Middle East Studies Association of North America    
Most at Risk Populations in Uganda (MARPS)         
National Campaing for Sustainable Development, Nepal         
National Sudanese Women Association       
Norwegian PEN  
Omani Association for Human Rights         
Organisation Marocaine des Droits Humains (OMDH), Morocco
Pakistan NGOs Forum      
Palestinian Center for Communication and Development Strategies, Palestine
Participatory Research Action Network-PRAN, Bangladesh
PEN America
PEN Canada
PEN International
PEN Iraq
Plateforme d'Autonomisation des organisations de jeunesses de Côte d'ivoire (Paojci)
Promo-LEX Association, Moldova
Qurium Media Foundation, Sweden
Reconciliation and Development Agency, Cameroon
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 
Resilient Youth for Change, Zambia
Rights Realization Centre
Rise Initiative for Human Advocacy, South Sudan
Rotel Foundation for Social Development, Nigeria
Rukiga Forum for Development (RUFODE), Uganda
Rural Development Foundation, Pakistan
Salam for Democracy and Human Rights
Scholars at Risk
Sentinel for Human Rights
Sierra Leone School Green Clubs   
Society for Rural Women and Youth Development, Nigeria
SPEDYA-Africa Togo
Street Children Empowerment Foundation, Ghana
Sukaar Welfare Organization - Pakistan
Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
Terres des Jeunes Togo     
TRIO Uganda 
Tunisian Association For Supporting Minority Rights
Tunisian League of Defending Human Rights 
Union des Frères pour Alternatif de Développement Intégré (UFADI), Haiti
Urnammu for Justice and Human Rights, Canada
Veritas Collective Foundation, Pakistan
Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State, Tunisia
Vijana Hope, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Volunteers Welfare for Community Based Care of Zambia
Wales PEN Cymru 
Women's March Global 
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Young Men Association, Botswana
Youth Action for Relentless Development Organization, Sierra Leone
Youth Advocacy Nepal   
Youth for the Mission - Jamaica
Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana