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UAE: Crackdown on 'UAE94' activists extends to relatives

Two days ago, Osama Al Najjar, a 25 year-old architectural engineer, was arrested on the road by several men in civilian clothes on his way back home from a visit to his doctor at around 4 pm. Osama is now being held in an unknown location outside the protection of the law. Given the systematic use of torture in detention centres controlled by the Emirati security services, Alkarama solicited the urgent intervention of the UN Special Rapporteur of torture today to ensure that Osama Al Najjar is not subjected to any torture or ill-treatment, and is immediately released.

"We do not hate our country but we will not forget the injustice..."

Osama Al Najjar is the son of Husain Al Najjar, one of the UAE94 detainees sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment following a massively unfair trial. Since his father was arrested almost two years ago at the height of the crackdown on peaceful activists, Osama has been very active on Twitter in defending the UAE94 and disseminating information on their unfair trial.

Recently, Sheikh Sultan Ben Mohamed Al Qassimi, the Emir of Sharjah Emirate, made the following statement in a radio broadcasted interview: "the families of those arrested [the UAE 94 detainees] should not fill their children with hate and malice against their country".

Osama Al Najjar responded to the statement on his Twitter account: "Your highness, (...) we do not hate our country but we will not forget the injustice we have faced even if our mothers do. Those who were unjust to my father owe twenty 20 months of prison and harassment".
This is the last tweet Osama posted before his arrest, on 16 March 2014, exactly 20 months after his father's arrest.

On 17 March 2014, Osama was returning home from a visit to his doctor when he was arrested on his way back home by six civilian cars at around 4 pm. About a dozen of men wearing civilian clothes took him to his home and undertook a full search of Mr Al Najjar's house, confiscated all his electronic devices and left the house at around 7 pm.

Osama's mother came back home at 6 pm from a visit to Al Razeen prison where her husband is currently detained. She discovered his son under arrest in one of the six cars parked in front of her home. According to her, no valid document was shown to justify the arrest and no indication was given about where the victim was being taken, who is now detained in an unknown place. The victim's family suspects that Mr Al Najjar was arrested by State Security Services, as he had been previously harassed following the public positions he adopted about his father's trial on Twitter.

It is believed that he is currently held in the premises of the State Security Services in Abu Dhabi. Given reports of the systematic use of torture and ill-treatment places of detention controlled by the Emirati security services, Alkarama is concerned that Mr Al Najjar will be tortured and subjected to ill-treatment during his incommunicado detention.

Although no reason was given to the victim and his family to justify the arrest, it is believed that Osama's current disappearance is linked to his activities on Twitter related to the UAE94 and specifically his last tweet.

Crackdown on the 'UAE94' activists extends to relatives & supporters

The disappearance of Osama Al Najjar is not the first example of the crackdown carried out by the UAE authorities against relatives and supporters of the UAE94. Jamal Al Hammadi, the brother of one of the UAE94, has been disappeared since 20 April 2013. Waleed Al-Sheehi and Abdulhamid Al Hadidi, two Emirati human rights defenders who are very active on Twitter have been harassed and prosecuted for publishing information on the UAE94 trial.

Osama's disappearance follows the same pattern used by the State Security Services in numerous other similar cases in the United Arab Emirates against peaceful activists. People are detained incommunicado or enforcedly disappeared for months, then reappear and are put on trial for political motives. Detainees are often tortured during the first period of their detention and forced to sign false confessions which are then used against them during unfair trials.

"How can the UAE pledges to the UN Human Rights Council that it takes "its international obligations in the area of human rights very seriously" while at the same time they disappear, torture, detain unlawfully and unfairly try peaceful activists?" said Alkarama's Legal Director Rachid Mesli. "We are extremely concerned about the persistence of this pattern which underlines the grave degradation of the human rights situation in the country since the beginning of the crackdown in 2011."

Today, Alkarama asked the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to intervene urgently with the Emirati authorities to ensure that Osama Al Najjar does not suffer torture or ill-treatment and that he is immediately released or placed under the protection of the law. We also ask the UAE authorities to inform his family of his fate and whereabouts in the shortest possible delays and allow them to contact him.

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

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