UAE: Unfair trial concerns confirmed as observers denied access to court room

Abu Dhabi - Earlier today, a delegation of 20 international observers representing various international NGOs was denied access to the trial of 94 activists which was scheduled at 10:00 this morning at the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi. This further restriction seems to clearly demonstrate a will by the authorities to conceal the violation of some of the most basic guarantees to a fair trial in the first hearing of these 94 individuals. This weekend, delegates from Amnesty International and the Alkarama Foundation coming to observe the trial had already been refused entry to the country. 
Upon arrival at the gates of the Federal Supreme Court this morning, the international observers were sent from one authority to another, before being told that it was too late to request attendance to the hearing as "applications are only accepted up to 2 weeks before the trial." The Emirati authorities thus seem to be invoking new procedural steps to justify the refusal to let the observers enter the court, as the observers applied exactly the same procedures as previously used during the trial of the "UAE5" cases and were never informed of any changes to these.

International media and news agencies were also denied access to the trial. One journalist was reportedly prevented from interviewing the families of the detainees and had her camera confiscated. A few local media were allowed in the court room, though it is feared this only includes state-controlled media. Activists report that only Emirati nationals were able to access the hearing.

Before the start of the hearing, approximately 200 people gathered at the gates of the Federal Supreme Court, the whole perimeter being cordoned off by riot police and security services agents. Activists report that the relatives of three of the detainees, including Ibrahim Mohammed Al Sodiq and Hamad Abdulrahman Al Hadidi, were arrested around 11:30 by police agents for displaying pictures of their detained fathers. They were released later on during the day.

All those accused denied the charges, and one of them, Ahmed Ghaith Al-Swueidi, added that "I know that what I'm going to say may cost me my life, but I deny the charges, and I ask the court to protect my life and the life of my family". Sources state that the next hearing of the 'UAE94' is scheduled for next Monday, on 11 March 2013, though no official statement has been made so far by the Emirati authorities. Such a short schedule seems to be a strategy to exhaust the defense lawyers, and to prevent international observers from planning any visit to the country and being able to meet the new alleged 2 week-deadline for requests of attendance.

Ms Noémie Crottaz, who was prevented from entering the country last Saturday stated: "We are deeply dismayed that international trial observers have been blocked from the trial,which clearly demonstrates an attempt by the authorities to prevent the flaws in the trial being disclosed to the public eye and international community."

Both the Emirati code of criminal procedure and the Arab Human Rights Charter, to which the UAE is party, have provisions that protect the right to fair trial, which includes trials being open to the public. Alkarama continues to call on the authorities to ensure the trial be open to international observers.

Alkarama intends to inform the UN Human Rights Council - of which the United Arab Emirates is currently a member - and the UN Special Procedures of the serious breaches to international human rights standards for a fair trial documented on the UAE94 case.
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