Case History: Mohamed Al-Roken
On 2 July 2013 the Federal Supreme Court of Abu Dhabi sentenced 56 people, including leading human rights lawyer Dr Mohamed Al-Roken to 10 years in prison. Dr Al-Roken was detained in July 2012 and stood trial as part of the group that became known as the “UAE 94”. Prominent defender Mr Mohamed Al-Mansoori received the same sentence. Due for release on 17 July 2022, this date has now passed and he remains incarcerated, with no comment from the authorities.
Mohamed Al-Roken is a leading human rights lawyer who provides legal assistance to victims of human rights abuses in the UAE, including to fellow human rights defenders. Among those he has recently defended are the “UAE 5” human rights defenders who were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment by a UAE court for their human rights work in November 2011 and subsequently released as a result of a Presidential amnesty.
Mohamed Al-Roken attended the Front Line Defenders Dublin Platform in 2003. Arrested again on 17 July 2012 the human rights defender is currently imprisoned as part of what has become known as the 'UAE 94' case. While in detention Dr Mohamed Al-Roken has been denied several of his basic rights including access to his lawyer. In addition to this it has been reported that the authorities have subjected him to psychological intimidation. In 2014 Mohamed Al-Roken was nominated as a finalist for the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk.
Front Line Defenders joined 12 other organisations in publishing a joint statement calling on the United Arabe Emirates (UAE) government to release activists jailed following the mass "UAE 94" trial.
The statement was released in advance of the anniversary of the grossly unfair UAE 94 trial that began on 4 March 2013 in the UAE. Dozens of government critics and reform activists in the UAE have been imprisoned, including prominent human rights defenders, judges, academics, and student leaders.
The coalition of 13 organisations calls on the UAE government to release immediately and unconditionally all those imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association following the trial, as well as those who remain detained or imprisoned for publicizing concerns about it.
The organisations also urge the authorities to ensure that the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment that the individuals were subjected to prior to and following their trial are promptly, independently, impartially and thoroughly investigated, that those responsible are held to account, and that the victims have access to effective remedies and to reparation.
The space for dissent in the UAE is increasingly shrinking. The repression has been entrenched with the enactment in 2012 of the cybercrimes law, which the government has used to silence social media activists and others who support and defend freedom of expression online, and the enactment of the 2014 counter-terror law.
Front Line Defenders has previously expressed its concern regarding the vague and overly broad definition of terrorism in the 2014 law, which treats a wide range of activities, including those protected by human rights standards, as amounting to terrorism, may be used to sentence human rights defenders or critics of the government to lengthy prison terms or even death.
The organizations call on the UAE government, which currently is a member of the UN Human Rights Council, to adhere to its obligations to uphold human rights at home, including respecting the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, and to freedom of association and peaceful assembly.
On 2 July 2013 the Federal Supreme Court of Abu Dhabi sentenced 56 people, including leading human rights lawyer Dr Mohamed Al-Roken to 10 years in prison. Dr Al-Roken was detained in July 2012 and stood trial as part of the group that became known as the “UAE 94”. Prominent defender Mr Mohamed Al-Mansoori received the same sentence.
Both the detention as well as the trial itself have been the subject of criticism for falling far short of fair trial standards and allegations of mistreatment of the detainees have abounded. The Federal Supreme Court acts as a state security court; the decisions it makes are not subject to appeal. International observers were repeatedly denied entry to the hearings. The charges against Dr Al-Roken, and Mr Al-Mansoori included conspiring to overthrow the state.
Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned not only about the allegations of mistreatment and the court's denial of international observers to attend, but also the fact that in light of these claims, to issue a sentence from a court whose decisions are not subject to appeal.
On 7 August 2012, the UAE authorities extended the detention period of leading human rights lawyer Dr Mohammed Al-Roken, until 7 September 2012.
Furthermore, on 8 August 2012, the Attorney General and the State Security Prosecutor's Office refused prominent lawyer and human right defender Mr Abdulhameed Al-Kumaiti's requests to visit a number of his clients who are in detention, including Mohammed Al Roken. Abdulhameed Al-Kumaiti served as a lawyer for the “UAE 5” in 2011, along with Mohammed Al-Roken.
Abdulhameed Al-Kumaiti and his staff have been subjected to harassment, intimidation and smear campaigns in the UAE. On 9 August 2012, an employee of Abdulhameed Al-Kumaiti's, Egyptian lawyer Sameh Mukhtar, was asked to report to the Dubai Immigration Office and was ordered to leave the country immediately due to national security reasons.
This is reportedly the fourth of Abdulhameed Al-Kumaiti's employees that has ceased their work with the human rights lawyer due to concerted pressure exerted by the UAE authorities. Meanwhile, there are reports that some officials advised the families of those detained during the recent crackdown on human rights defenders and political reformists against hiring Abdulhameed Al-Kumaiti.
In parallel to these events, a number of statements attempting to stigmatise those detained in the recent crackdown have been made by the Cabinet and other public officials, in which the detainees were accused of conspiring against the state and inciting others against the state.
Front Line Defenders reiterates its call on the authorities in the UAE to immediately and unconditionally release Mohammed Al-Roken, as well as all other human rights defenders who remain in arbitrary detention following the recent wave of arrests. Front Line Defenders further calls on the authorities to immediately cease all harassment of Abdulhameed Al-Kumaiti and his employees, and to take all necessary steps to bring the smear campaign against human rights defenders in the UAE to an end.
In the early morning of 17 July 2012, prominent UAE human rights defender Dr Mohamed Al-Roken was arrested near his home by security forces. His place of detention is currently unknown.
The arrest and detention of Mohamed Al-Roken comes hours after the deportation to Thailand of fellow human rights defender Mr Ahmad Abd Al-Khaliq and in the wake of a wave of arrests of political reformists.
Before his arrest Mohamed Al-Roken was busy advocating for those arrested and relaying the news of their arrest to the outside world. Mohamed Al-Roken, a member of the International Bar Association, was chairperson of the UAE Jurists Association before it was arbitrarily dissolved by the UAE authorities in April 2011.
Human rights defenders in the UAE face grave risks as they try to carry out their work in a hostile environment. Those criticising Government policies or exposing human rights violations are considered security threats and are targeted by Government agencies, including the police and other security services, which play a major role in the suppression of the work of human rights defenders.
Human rights defenders are also threatened and attacked by government supporters including the media and tribal entities loyal to the ruling family. Defenders have been physically attacked and beaten, arbitrarily dismissed from work, arrested and charged, subjected to travel bans and threatened with deportation. They have also been facing an ongoing smear campaign and intimidation on the Internet, on social media networks, and on television and radio stations, some of which use talk shows and religious programmes as vehicles to stigmatise defenders.
Front Line Defenders condemns the arrest and detention of Mohamed Al-Roken and expresses concern for his physical and psychological integrity. Front Line Defenders believes that Mohamed Al-Roken's arrest and detention are solely motivated by his advocacy for human rights in the UAE and his essential role in providing legal assistance to victims of human rights abuses in the UAE.