“UAE94” detainee Omran Al Harthi detained indefinitely under pretext of “rehabilitation needs”

“UAE94” detainee Omran Al Harthi detained indefinitely under pretext of “rehabilitation needs”

On July 16, 2012, Omran Ali Hassan Al Harthi was arrested as part of the UAE authorities’ crackdown on 94 intellectuals, activists, and human rights defenders who had openly criticised the Emirati government (commonly known as the “UAE94”). He was subsequently held in secret and solitary confinement and subjected to torture and ill-treatment for eight months. On July 2, 2013, the Federal Supreme Court sentenced Al Harthi to seven years’ imprisonment, for acts related to the exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and of association. In July 2019, he completed his prison sentence. However, under the pretext of “rehabilitation needs”, the authorities have extended his detention indefinitely.

In March 2011, the UAE carried out a comprehensive crackdown on the Reform and Social Guidance Association (Al Islah). In 2013, the UAE then engaged in a controversial mass trial of 94 individuals commonly referred to as the “UAE94”; 94 intellectuals, activists, and human rights defenders who had openly criticised the Emirati government. All of them were accused of having ties with Al Islah.

Al Harthi is a known blogger affiliated with Al Islah who had posted comments critical of the authorities. Subsequently, he was held in secret and solitary confinement for eight months. He was deprived of his right to see his lawyer and his family and was subjected to torture and ill-treatment.

On November 29, 2012, Al Harthi was able to meet with his family for the first time at the Public Prosecution’s office.

On March 4, 2013, the trial of Al Harthi before the State Security Chamber within the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi began. At the first session, he was informed of the vague charges brought against him, namely “establishing and running a secret organisation seeking to oppose the basic principles of the UAE system of governance and to seize power and having links and affiliations to organisations with foreign agendas”. He was then transferred from a secret detention facility to Al Razeen prison.

On July 2, 2013, Al Harthi was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. He was denied the right to appeal to a higher jurisdiction.

In July 2019, he completed his prison sentence. However, on the pretext of “rehabilitation needs” and pursuant to the UAE’s Counter-Terrorism Law and Munasaha Centre Law, the authorities refuse to release him. He is currently still held at Al Razeen prison under the “counselling” regime. The decision to be placed under this form of administrative detention can de facto not be appealed and there is no maximum duration.

On March 9, 2021, MENA Rights Group submitted his case to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, requesting the UN experts to intervene with the UAE authorities and ask for his immediate release.

Al Harthi continues to be held within the same detention facility – Al Razeen prison – where he had served his initial seven-year sentence. There is no maximum timeline for the stay under the “counselling” regime and he is de facto denied the right to appeal against the decision of continued detention. Al Harthi was not presented with any court decision prior to his extended detention. He was not given any reason for the prolongation, nor was he given a chance to defend himself.

Since his detention was extended under the Munasaha regime, he has not had access to a lawyer. He is also prevented from submitting a request for his release and he does not have access to adequate medical treatment. His family does not have any news about his state of health but is in constant worry about his situation. 

A ban on visits was pronounced due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Accordingly, the family does not know how the pandemic affects his well-being. The calls are, moreover, cut off as soon as the complainant transmits any information on the conditions in prison. The family moreover suspects that there have been attempts of forcing the complainant to sign a confession that he was guilty and that he repented and to record a video that could be shared in the media.

Timeline

April 15, 2021: MENA Rights Group refers case to the Secretary-General on intimidation and reprisals for cooperation with the UN in the field of human rights.
March 9, 2021: MENA Rights Group submits his case to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
March 2020: Visits to Al Razeen prison are banned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
July 2019: Al Harthi finishes his seven-year prison sentence. However, on the pretext of “rehabilitation needs”, he is currently still held at Al Razeen prison under the “counselling” regime established by the Munasaha Centre Law.
July 2, 2013: Al Harthi is sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment.
March 4, 2013: Al Harthi’s trial before the State Security Chamber within the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi begins. At the first session, he is informed of the vague charges brought against him; all the “UAE94” defendants were accused of founding an organisation aimed at overthrowing the government, a charge they all denied.
July 16, 2012: Al Harthi is arrested at his workplace by State security forces. Subsequently, he is held in solitary confinement in a secret location for eight months, where he is subjected to torture and ill-treatment.

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