May 21, 2019
Wednesday, May 29 marks one year since the State Security Chamber of the Federal Appeals Court of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) sentenced Ahmed Mansoor to ten years in prison and imposed a fine equivalent to more than a quarter of a million dollars. He was convicted for allegedly insulting “the status and prestige of the UAE,” including its rulers, and publishing false reports on social media intending to harm the country’s relations with neighboring countries.
Prior to his arrest in a midnight raid on his home on March 20, 2017, Ahmed Mansoor used to quip that he was “the last man talking” in the UAE, reflecting that over the previous several years the authorities had jailed almost all other Emirati rights activists and their lawyers. For more than a year, Mansoor’s whereabouts were unknown. Since the Federal Supreme Court upheld his conviction and sentencing on December 31, 2018, according to people familiar with his situation, he remains in solitary confinement in a 4-meter by 4-meter cell with no bed or water—conditions that led him to undertake a hunger strike in mid-March 2019. On May 7, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and six other UN human rights experts condemned this situation, noting that “the poor conditions of his detention in the United Arab Emirates, including prolonged solitary confinement, may constitute torture.”
Despite the harassment directed against him, Mansoor continued to speak out on social media about the intensifying rights violations in the UAE, and he was often the sole source of reliable information about arrests and trials. There was plenty to report: Starting in late March 2012, security forces arrested scores of Emiratis for their association with Islah, shorthand for the Reform and Social Guidance Association, which had been a registered NGO in the UAE since 1974. Many of those detained, including prominent human rights lawyers Mohammed al-Roken and Mohammed al-Mansoori, were held in undisclosed locations. (Al-Roken had been one of Ahmed Mansoor’s lawyers in his 2011 trial, and the presence of Islah members among those who signed the UAE 5 petition likely spurred these arrests.) Another lawyer, Salim al-Shehhi, was detained when he went to the office of the State Security Prosecutor with the intention of representing al-Roken. Authorities arrested and deported non-Emirati lawyers working for Abdulhameed al-Kumaiti, the last remaining defense lawyer willing to represent those arrested in the Islah crackdown—and who has since left the country.