Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 April 2014, 11:13 GMT

UAE: Human rights lawyers among 13 detained as crackdown intensifies

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 18 July 2012
Cite as Amnesty International, UAE: Human rights lawyers among 13 detained as crackdown intensifies, 18 July 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/50090ac22.html [accessed 23 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The execution of three men in the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip illustrates ongoing failures in the justice system to ensure a rigorous fair trial process, Amnesty International said after three murder convicts were hanged on Tuesday.

Gaza has recently seen a significant increase in executions, with three other hangings this year. At least 14 have been executed by Hamas since 2010.

"The hanging of these men is a deeply disappointing episode in the short history of Hamas' de facto control of the Gaza Strip," said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and Africa.

"Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases but at least one of those executed yesterday was sentenced to death after proceedings which failed to meet international fair trial standards.

"When individuals face the ultimate sanction, it is all the more necessary that trial proceedings are scrupulously fair."

Twenty-one-year-old Na'el Jamal Qandil Doghmosh, one of the three executed, was sentenced to death for murder in April 2011. His final appeal was rejected by Gaza's highest legal body, the Court of Cassation in May this year.

According to his family, Doghmosh "confessed" under torture by police investigators after he was arrested in May 2010. When his family was able to visit him two months later, his nails had been torn out and he had burns and bruises on his body.

Amnesty International is unaware of any investigation launched into these reports. Torture in detention in Gaza is common, with perpetrators rarely, if ever, brought to account. 

The other two men executed yesterday, identified as "F.T.W." and Hazem Hilmi Herez were convicted of murder and murder and robbery respectively.

According to Palestinian law, death sentences must be signed by the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), currently Mahmoud Abbas of the rival Fatah party, before implementation. The PA president has not ratified any death sentences since 2005.

"The refusal by Hamas to adhere to this legal requirement is just one example of how they flout the legal process," said Ann Harrison.

"Another is the imposition of death sentences by military courts against civilians. Yesterday's executions raise grave concerns for other Palestinian prisoners in Gaza on death row."

"We urge the Hamas authorities to stop all executions and to immediately overturn or commute all death sentences in Gaza, or to grant re-trials in proceedings which comply with fair trial standards, and without recourse to the death penalty."

Amnesty International is aware of some 27 Gaza prisoners on death row. One man known as A.M.A. could face imminent execution if his appeal to the military court against his conviction for "collaboration with the enemy" is rejected.

According to local human rights organizations, six of the 14 who have been executed by Hamas were convicted on charges of "collaboration with the enemy", or treason by passing sensitive information to Israeli security bodies.

Amnesty International has repeatedly raised concerns that procedures before military courts in Gaza, where alleged "collaborators" are tried, fall far short of international standards for fair trials.

The Hamas Ministry of Interior justified the use of the death penalty in a press release saying that it has a duty to protect society and to enforce law and order.

"Amnesty International acknowledges that

The UAE authorities must immediately an unconditionally release two prominent human rights lawyers arrested in recent days, Amnesty International said.

Dr Mohamed ‘Abdullah al-Roken, a long-time Amnesty International member and a well-known human rights defender and lawyer, was arrested at 1:30 am on Tuesday as he drove to a Dubai police station to report the disappearance five hours earlier of his son Rashid Mohamed al-Roken and son-in-law ‘Abdullah al-Hajeri.

He was one of the defence lawyers in last year's prominent case of five political activists – known as the ‘UAE 5' – who were arrested, tried and imprisoned for defaming top UAE government officials.

He is among 13 men – including fellow human rights defender, the lawyer and former head of the UAE Jurists' Association Dr Mohamed al-Mansoori – who have been arrested since 16 July by state security officers (Amn al-Dawla). 

"We believe Mohammad al-Roken and Mohammad al-Mansoori to be prisoners of conscience, held solely on account of their defence work as lawyers and other peaceful human rights activities. This is not the first time they have been persecuted for their legitimate human rights work. They must be released immediately and unconditionally," said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

"The UAE authorities must halt this intensified crackdown on human rights defenders and other activists across the Emirates."

The arrests were carried out after the Abu Dhabi Public Prosecutor on 15 July announced an investigation into a group of people for allegedly plotting "crimes against state security", "opposing the UAE constitution and ruling system", as well as having ties to "foreign organizations and agendas".
State security officers (Amn al-Dawla) arrested most of the men either at their homes or at their places of work, confiscating computers and personal documents in the process.

"Unless the other 11 men are to be charged with an internationally recognizable criminal offence, they must be released. In the meantime, the authorities must reveal their whereabouts and ensure no harm comes to them while in custody," said Ann Harrison.

Besides al-Mansoori and al-Roken and his relatives, the remaining detainees include the director of the Centre for the Memorization of the Qur'an ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Hadidi, and activists Rashid al-Shamsi, Hussain al-Najjar, Omran al-Radhwan, Khaled al-Shaiba, Dr Ibrahim al-Yassi, Mohamed al-Hoosani, ‘Isa al-Sari and Khalifa al-Nu'aimi. 

Some of those held are associated with the Reform and Social Guidance Association (al-Islah).

In a separate development, on Monday, UAE authorities forced a member of the ‘UAE 5', the 35-year-old blogger and activist Ahmed Abdul Khaleq into exile in Thailand.

In his writings he has defended the rights of the UAE's stateless Bidun minority, of which he is a member. Amnesty International considered him a prisoner of conscience during his detention.
Mohamed al-Roken had been advocating for his client not to be expelled in the days before his own arrest.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed his concern at the accelerating crackdown on human rights defenders in the UAE. He referred to harassment, denial of travel, termination of work contracts, arrests, denaturalization and expulsion from the country as methods being used by the UAE authorities to repress activists in the UAE.

In 2008 the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders expressed concern at the treatment of Mohamed al-Roken; while in 2011 she did likewise regarding Mohamed al-Mansoori.

Amnesty International urged the UAE authorities to halt their ongoing crackdown on activists and human rights defenders and to uphold the right to freedom of peaceful expression, association and assembly.

"We're calling for an end to the UAE's restrictions on free speech and peaceful protest," said Ann Harrison.

"Peaceful speech and protest is being penalized in the UAE. It is all the more important that human rights defenders who challenge such violations are allowed to  carry out their legitimate work without hindrance in line with international human rights law and standards including the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders."

it is the right and responsibility of the Hamas administration to bring to justice those suspected of criminal offences," said Ann Harrison.

"But there has never been any convincing evidence produced to prove that the death penalty is a more effective deterrent than any other form of punishment."

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty – the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment – in all cases as a violation of the right to life and the right not to be tortured or subjected to any cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

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