Date: November 22, 2023

Free the UAE’s wrongfully held prisoners

As global attention turns to the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) hosting of the next UN climate summit COP28, we would like to remind the world that the well-oiled PR machine cannot be allowed to distract attention from the UAE authorities’ repressive and regressive policies and practices and poor record on climate. For decades, the UAE has silenced its critics and repressed dissent to the extent that independent local civil society is now non-existent in the country. 

What is the problem? 

The UAE has been working in overdrive, to project an image of a country that is forward looking and committed to addressing international challenges, to distract attention from its dismal domestic human rights record and its plans to massively expand its fossil fuel production that will lead to more climate damage and undermine human rights around the world.

Climate action discussions at COP28 are immensely important to protect human rights and advance climate justice. Our calls include a full, fast and fair fossil fuel phase out as well as the protection of open civic space at climate meetings.

Since 2011, scores have been detained in relation to the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association. In 2012, a grossly unfair mass trial of 94 defendants, known as the “UAE94”, sentenced 63 people to between seven and 10-year prison terms for their demands for reform and democracy. Today, at least 55 of these men remain arbitrarily detained months or years past the completion of their prison sentences.

In March 2017, Ahmed Mansoor – one of the most prominent human rights defenders in the UAE and the last man to freely criticise the authorities publicly from within the country – was arrested and later sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Today, we count at least 26 prisoners of conscience in the UAE, including 24 defendants in the “UAE94” mass trial.

What can you do to help? 

Call on the UAE to release prisoners of conscience and all others arbitrarily detained in the country to ensure that COP28 provides a secure environment for all – whether Emirati or other nationals – to freely express their views which are essential to achieving a successful outcome on which humanity depends.