UAE: the Working Group confirms the arbitrary nature of the detention of two Uighurs

Abdessalam Salim, 37, and Omar Akbar, 35, two Chinese Muslims (Uighurs) were arrested in June 2008 in Dubai with their spouses by the security forces of the state. After two years of solitary confinement, they were tried and sentenced by the Federal Supreme Court on 29 June 2010 to ten years in prison for terrorism, a decision that they were not able to appeal. Seized of the case, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN adopted Opinion 34/2011 on 1 September 2011 that confirmed the communications sent to the Group by Alkarama on 1 October 2009 and 19 August 2011 declaring the arbitrary nature of their detention and calling upon authorities to immediately liberate and compensate them.

Throughout their detention, their right to a fair trial was denied them. In the first months following their arrests, they were threatened with deportation back to China if they did not sign confessions. If they were to be forced to return to China, they would risk being condemned to death and executed. They were so afraid of this that they testified to their involvement in "the planning of terrorist attacks on the United Arab Emirates" and were imprisoned on the basis of false accusations of terrorism. After having been detained for a long period in secret in state security services centers, they were transferred to Al-Wathba prison. It was not until more than two years in detention had passed outside of all judicial procedures that the federal Supreme Court handed down their sentences. In addition, they were not allowed any legal assistance in a violation of the Penal Procedure Code and were tried without the right to have an interpreter present at the trial.

After having reviewed the information relative to the victims' detention, the Working Group has deplored the fact that in its response, the government of the UAE "has not furnished the necessary elements to refute the allegations" of false confessions obtained under torture and the violation of the right to a fair trial reported by Alkarama.

The UN experts also concluded that the detention of the two Uighurs is contrary to articles 9 and 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that authorities in the case did not observe international norms relative to the right to a fair trial. This violations "are of such a serious character that that the deprivation of liberty is arbitrary in nature," in conformity with Category III established by the Working Group.

The experts also reminded the Emirati authorities that although they are not party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, they must respect the prohibition of arbitrary detention as established under customary international law and the principle of jus cogens.

Finally, the Working Group called upon the government to ratify the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights.
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