UAE: Son of UAE94 detainee tortured during four days for a tweet

Osama Al Najjar, an Emirati human rights activist and the son of one of the 'UAE94', was tortured for four days during his secret detention by officers from the state security services who arrested him for a tweet. He was arrested on 17 March 2014 on his way back home, the day after he posted a tweet in reply to a radio statement made by the Emir of Sharjah Emirate on the 'UAE94' case. On 19 March, as he was held in secret detention, Alkarama solicited the urgent intervention of the UN Special Procedures with the UAE authorities. It was only two weeks later that Alkarama learned about what happened to him during his secret detention.

On 17 March 2014, at around 4 pm, Osama was reportedly stopped on the road by several officers from the state security services in civilian clothes on his way back to Ajman. He was returning home from a visit at his doctor after a surgery he had a couple of days before. The officers forced him to get into one of their civilian cars and started beating him on all parts of his body after he refused to give them the password for his phone. Then, they took him to his house, undertook a full search of the place, confiscated all his electronic devices. Osama's mother, who arrived home at 6 pm from a visit to Al Razeen prison where her husband is currently detained, reports that no arrest warrant was shown. The agents left the place at around 7 pm and took him, blindfolded and handcuffed, to a location which is believed to be a secret place of detention in Abu Dhabi controlled by the State Security services.

This is where, during four days, he was secretly detained. Four days during which he was interrogated and tortured almost without interruption.

As soon as Osama arrived at the state security services' premises, two officers began the interrogation session. They brought him on a wheelchair as he could not move due to the severe beating inflicted on him. He was continuously beaten on the face, the ears and other parts of his body. He was also beaten on the legs with plastic covered wires and exposed to extremely cold temperature, as the air conditioning was put on the lowest temperature.

Following the acts of torture he was subjected to, Osama started bleeding heavily from his recent surgery. The officers forced him to stand up but then took him to the prison's doctor when they understood the severity of his condition.

On 19 March 2014, on the third day of his secret detention, he was reportedly taken to the State Prosecution in Abu Dhabi. He would have been brought before the Chief Prosecutor Ahmed Al-Dhanhani, then to a second prosecutor but, after Mr Al Najjar challenged the authority of these two Prosecution's officials due to previous arguments in his father's case, he was finally interrogated by a third prosecutor.

On 21 March 2014, he was transferred to Al Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi. It was through unofficial channels that Osama's family finally learnt where he was: the family of Waleed Al Shehhi, who is also unlawfully detained there in the context of the 'UAE94' case, informed them. They were allowed to visit him for the first time on 31 March 2014. Osama told them that he was apparently accused of "belonging to Al-Islah", "offending the State via Twitter", "instigating hatred against the State via Twitter" and "spreading false information according to which his father was tortured in Emirati jails".

He is currently being held in very poor conditions of detention. Although his current health condition needs urgent medication, he has not yet been provided with any access to medical care.

Today, Alkarama informed the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture about these new developments. We requested his intervention with the Emirati authorities to remind them of their obligations under the Convention against torture, ensure that prompt, independent and efficient investigations be open into these allegations, release Osama immediately and provide him with adequate reparation and prosecute the perpetrators. Extremely concerned by the systematic use of torture against people expressing peacefully their right to freedom of opinion and expression, Alkarama also suggested the UN expert to undertake a visit in view of reminding the UAE of their obligations to take appropriate measures to prevent acts of torture and ensure that no exceptional circumstances may be invoked as a justification of torture.

Alkarama also shared the information related to Osama Al Najjar's case with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers who, during a recent visit in the UAE, expressed her concerns about the "acts of torture" she was informed about.

For more information or an interview, please contact media@alkarama.org (Dir: +41 22 734 1008).

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