Human Rights Watch talks about the UAE’s “message”: Either with us or you are a terrorist

Human Rights Watch accused the UAE of exploiting the fight against terrorism to ban political activities and freedom of expression, suppress dissent, and undermine the rule of law.

The organization said in a statement issued today, Sunday, that the UAE authorities classified last September 4 prominent Emirati dissidents in exile as supporters of “terrorism”, adding that this step is part of an ongoing attempt to ban activity and freedom of expression under the guise of combating terrorism.

The list of “people, entities and organizations supporting terrorism” included at least one person who was detained for more than a year without being brought before a judge or allowed for legal representation, “which further indicates the UAE’s blatant disregard for the rule of law.”

“The UAE has repeatedly demonstrated the outrageous tactics it uses to combat terrorism as a pretext to suppress dissent and legitimate criticism,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

The four exiled Emirati dissidents, who were included in the list of terrorism by the UAE, are Hamad Al Shamsi, Muhammad Saqr Al Zaabi, Ahmed Al Shaiba Al Nuaimi and Saeed Al Tunaiji. The direct effects of their inclusion include asset freezing, property confiscation, and criminalizing the communications of their relatives residing in the UAE with them.

Opponents told Human Rights Watch that authorities threatened their families with prosecution for “communicating with terrorists.”

The men learned of their inclusion only after the cabinet issued the decision.

The organization warned that the United States, Britain and other international partners consider the UAE an active ally in combating terrorism, its financing and violent extremism across the region, “although the UAE criminal justice system is seriously flawed, and the UAE uses broad counter-terrorism legislation to arbitrarily suppress dissidents and activists.”

Human Rights Watch called on the UAE to “immediately stop using its abusive counter-terrorism systems to prosecute peaceful dissidents and human rights defenders” and to guarantee the right of everyone to a fair trial.

“The UAE’s unjust and complete disregard for the rule of law should serve as a stark warning to the United States, Britain and other countries that view the UAE as a reliable partner in the fight against terrorism in the region,” Page said.

The four Emirati dissidents belong to a group of 94 political activists known as the “UAE 94”, whom the UAE authorities accused of committing crimes against national security in 2013 based on their peaceful statements and affiliations. The group included prominent human rights lawyers, judges, teachers and student leaders.

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