Rights group accuse UAE of ‘retaliating’ against jailed activist Ahmed Mansoor

The United Arab Emirates retaliated against a jailed activist after he spoke publicly about his mistreatment in detention, two human rights groups said Friday. 

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) said human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor was moved to a smaller, more isolated cell and denied access to critical medical care after a news outlet published in July a letter Mansoor wrote detailing his prison conditions. 

Mansoor, an electrical engineer, poet and human rights defender, was arrested by Emirati security forces in a late-night house raid in 2017. He is serving a 10-year sentence for insulting the UAE, publishing false information and “portraying the UAE as a lawless land. The charges were reportedly connected to social media posts that were critical of the UAE government or called for reform. 

In July, London-based Arabic news site Arabi21 published Mansoor’s prison letter, in which he said Emirati authorities were holding him in indefinite solitary confinement. 

The UAE has previously denied allegations of his mistreatment. After five US senators requested an update on Mansoor’s conditions in June 2019, the Emirati ambassador in Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, responded by saying Mansoor had engaged in “impermissible sectarian hate speech” and incited violence. Rights groups say there is no evidence he did so.

In January 2021, Human Rights Watch further detailed Mansoor’s conditions in Sadr Prison’s isolation ward, which included living in solitary confinement in a cell “barely the size of a 2 x 2-meter parking spot” without access to reading materials, a mattress or other basic necessities. Since his arrest, Mansoor’s been denied regular visits or calls from his wife and four sons, the report said.

On Friday, HRW and GCHR urged the United Nations and the United States to publicly and privately call on the UAE to immediately end Mansoor’s isolation and release him. 

“Allies have been helping to promote the UAE’s narrative of a tolerant and culturally open country while ignoring rampant abuses, including the legal railroading and ghastly mistreatment of one of its most respected citizens,” said Michael Page, HRW’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director. 

The UAE is serving on the UN Security Council for its 2022-2023 term. A group of United Nations human rights experts in 2019 condemned Mansoor’s prolonged imprisonment, warning his dire conditions and “deprivation of liberty” may constitute torture.

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