United Arab Emirates : Munasaha centres, a backdoor way to silence prisoners of conscience
On 05 August 2022, Alkarama submitted the cases of Ahmed Ghaith AL SUWAIDI, Ahmed AL ZAABI, Ali AL HAMMADI, Ibrahim AL MARZOOQI, Hassan AL JABIRI, Husain AL JABIRI, Shaheen ALHOSANI, Sultan Bin Kayed AL QASIMI, Abdulsalam Darwish AL MARZOOQI, Khalid Mohammed ALYAMMAHI to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) regarding their continued detention in the Munasaha centres despite the expiry of their sentences.
The above-mentioned victims were all arrested in the course of 2012 as part of a massive crackdown by the UAE authorities on all human rights and political activists in the country following the "Arab Spring".
Some of those arrested had signed a petition calling for political reform and a modicum of democracy, while others, members of the previously tolerated "Al Islah" movement, had called for respect for the civil and political rights of their fellow citizens.
All were sentenced to between 7 and 15 years' imprisonment in the "UAE 94" trial before the Abu Dhabi State Security Court on 4 March 2013. 69 of the defendants present were convicted following a trial unanimously described as unfair. During the hearing, the presiding judge himself acknowledged the political nature of the trial.
The trial was initially to be observed by Alkarama's representative, but she was denied entry into the country upon her arrival on Saturday 2 March 2013. Although she was not identified on arrival, Alkarama’s Communications Officer was able to attend and meet with the victims' lawyers Ahmed Mansour and Abdelhamid al-Kumaiti.
During the trial, the court only took into account the intelligence reports containing the "confessions" made by the defendants during their long incommunicado detention and completely ignored all their testimonies about torture and other ill-treatment in order to force them to incriminate themselves.
During the long months of incommunicado detention, the victims were denied access to lawyers or their families and their torturers were given free rein to inflict the worst abuses on them and to construct indictment files to convict them on the pretext that they wanted to "overthrow the UAE government".
Alkarama submitted their cases to the Working Group in 2013, which adopted Opinion No. 60/2013 qualifying their detention as arbitrary. However, this decision was never implemented by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the victims have served their full sentence, reflecting the total lack of willingness of the authorities to collaborate with the UN mechanisms.
Worse still, after having served their ten-year sentence in inhumane conditions, the authorities refused to release them and transferred them to the "Munasaha" centre in Al-Razeen prison, presumably believing that they still represent a threat to the security of the state and thus need to be "rehabilitated".
Over the past ten years, Alkarama has continued to follow the UAE94 case and the situation of the victims with concern, and continues to submit new developments concerning them to the UN mechanisms.
Alkarama continues to address the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Alkarama has therefore submitted a new request for an Opinion to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to call on the Emirati authorities to release the ten victims and to recognise the arbitrary nature of their detention in the Munasaha centres.
The purpose of these centres is in fact to evaluate the "dangerousness" of detainees who have served their sentences by determining whether they are still in the same state of mind as before their arrest, in which case they must be "rehabilitated", i.e. subjected to intensive religious re-education sessions by official imams. These imams will have to convince them to "distance themselves from politics", to recognise their past mistakes and to accept unconditionally the royal authority.
These centres have been repeatedly denounced by human rights activists as a backdoor way to permanently silence any peaceful opposition or anyone who expresses opinions or ideas considered "deviant" by the royal authority.