[The following report was originally published by the Gulf Center for Human Rights on 13 May 2013.]
On 11 May 2013, human rights defender and online activist Waleed Al-Shehhi was arrested by the State security apparatus in Ajman. Waleed Al-Shehhi has been active in defending the 94 detained human rights defenders and activists known as the UAE 94 who were arrested over the past 16 months in a crackdown on freedom of expression in UAE. Their trial continues this week.
Waleed Al-Shehhi’s exact whereabouts have not been disclosed by the authorities, it is reported that he has been taken to the state security prison in Abu Dhabi. There are serious concerns for his safety particularly, as torture and ill treatment of detainees is common practice at the state security prison and he remains in incommunicado detention.
Evidence of torture and ill treatment at the prison, has been presented in court hearings of the UAE 94. The eleventh hearing in the trial of the UAE 94 is scheduled for 13 May 2013, with a further twelfth hearing to take place after that date. So far the trial process has been marred with gross and continuous violations of fair procedures. (For further information on the unfair trial of the UAE 94 please see joint press release dated on 25 March 2013: http://gc4hr.org/news/view/370). More generally in the UAE many other detainees remain in incommunicado detention in unknown places and often without charges.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) expresses serious concern for Waleed Al-Shehhi following his arrest by state security authorities and particularly as his whereabouts have not been disclosed. His arrest comes in the context of continuous harassment and targeting of human rights defenders in the UAE as they undertake their human rights activities. It is feared that such arrests will continue in an attempt by authorities to impede and disrupt the peaceful and legitimate work of human rights defenders.
The GCHR expresses further serious and urgent concern for the on-going detention of the UAE 94 and human rights defenders more generally in the UAE and urges the authorities to ensure that those detained as a result of their peaceful human rights activities are released immediately.
The GCHR urges the authorities in UAE to:
- Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Waleed Al-Shehhi and all human rights defenders detained in the UAE as a result of their peaceful and legitimate human rights work;
- Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Waleed Al-Shehhi and all others in detention in the UAE;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in UAE are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c) “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” and to Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”