UAE: open letter calling for release of Ahmed Mansoor on his 50th birthday

English PEN is proud to join organisations from across the world to stand in solidarity with award-winning human rights defender and poet Ahmed Mansoor as part of the Global week of action (16 – 23 October)

Read our joint open letter below and find out more about the campaign and how to get involved here.

16 October 2019

Your Excellency, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan,

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has recently announced multiple projects promoting pluralism and tolerance both at home and abroad. 2019 has been declared the ‘Year of Tolerance’ and in 2020, Dubai will host the World Expo trade fair, under the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.’ Upon Dubai’s selection for this exhibition in 2013, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said: ‘[w]e renew our promise to astonish the world in 2020.’ We welcome these public commitments to tolerance and open-mindedness.

It is in this same spirit that we, the undersigned, call upon the UAE government to immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, whose life we believe may be at risk following beatings and hunger strikes to protest deplorable and inhumane prison conditions. The Authorities have convicted and imprisoned him solely for his human rights work and for exercising his right to freedom of expression, which is also protected under the UAE’s Constitution. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience.

Before his imprisonment, Mansoor was known as ‘the last human rights defender left in the UAE’ on account of his fearless work to document human rights violations in the country. His willingness to speak out publicly in defence of human rights on his blog, via social media and in interviews with international media was an example to us all. He is also an engineer, a poet, and a father of four. He is on the advisory boards of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Human Rights Watch and was awarded the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

UAE authorities arrested Mansoor on 20 March 2017 at his home and subjected him to enforced and involuntary disappearance for over six months, with no access to a lawyer and sparse contact with his family, who did not know his exact whereabouts. The authorities held him in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time.

Shortly after his arrest, a group of United Nations human rights experts said that the UAE should release him immediately, describing his arrest as ‘a direct attack on the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the UAE.’ They expressed fear that his arrest ‘may constitute an act of reprisal for his engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, for the views he expressed on social media, including Twitter.’

A year later, on 29 May 2018, Mansoor was sentenced under vague charges of ‘insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols, including its leaders’, ‘publishing false information to damage the UAE’s reputation abroad’ and ‘portraying the UAE as a lawless land.’ He received a sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of 1,000,000 UAE Dirhams (US$272,000), three years of probation after completion of his sentence, and confiscation of his electronic devices. On 31 December 2018, the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court upheld his conviction and sentence.

The UAE’s Government actions against Mansoor have been widely criticised. For instance, on 4 October 2018, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning Mansoor’s ‘harassment, persecution and detention, and calling for his release.’ In May 2019, after he ended a month-long hunger strike to protest his unjust conviction and his detention conditions in Al-Sadr prison, a group of UN Special Rapporteurs stated that his conditions of detention ‘violate[d] basic international human rights standards and risk[ed] taking an irrevocable toll on Mr Mansoor’s health.’ In September 2019, Mansoor was severely beaten for continuing his protests and he undertook yet another hunger strike. Nevertheless, he continues to be held in an isolation cell with no running water or bed and is not permitted to leave his cell except for family visits.

In September 2019, the annual report of the UN Secretary General about reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN mechanisms cited Mansoor’s case. This was the fourth time that the Secretary General had denounced reprisals against him, having previously raised concerns in 2014, 2017 and 2018.

It is a tragedy and a disgrace for the UAE that this Tuesday, on 22 October of the UAE’s ‘Year of Tolerance’, Ahmed Mansoor will turn 50, alone in a prison cell in such deplorable conditions, simply for exercising his fundamental right to free speech and for speaking out against human rights violations.

Mansoor’s imprisonment is part of a larger and growing pattern of repression in the UAE. Since 2011, the authorities have embarked on an unprecedented campaign of repression on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association in the country, shrinking the space for peaceful dissent to near-obliteration. Authorities have used privately manufactured technologies, such as those made by NSO Group, for the unlawful targeted surveillance of human rights defenders, including Mansoor, in order to monitor and clamp down on dissent. The authorities have arrested, detained, and prosecuted activists, human rights defenders and other critics of the government, including prominent lawyers, judges and academics, on broad and sweeping national security-related or cybercrime charges and in proceedings that fail to meet international fair trial standards.

The UAE has publicly declared itself a champion of tolerance in the Middle East and the world. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it has an obligation to protect the rights of its citizens and residents. For this reason, we call upon the UAE government to uphold these principles, and to release Ahmed Mansoor without further delay.

Yours sincerely

  • A Common Future- Cameroon
  • Abraham’s Children Foundation- Nigeria
  • ACAPE BURUNDI            
  • Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT)-Belgium                   
  • ACAT-France
  • ACAT-Germany
  • ACAT-Liberia                      
  • ACAT-Switzerland          
  • Access Center for Human Rights-France
  • Access Now   
  • Accountabilitylab- Niger                     
  • African Monitoring Observatory on Climate, Waters, Earth, and Cultures (AMOClimWEC)- Benin
  • American Association of University Professors – New York University Chapter            
  • American Association of University Professors (AAUP)                   
  • Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)                       
  • Amis des Etrangers au Togo (ADET)- Togo
  • Amman Center for Human Rights Studies- Jordan
  • Amnesty International 
  • Angels in the Field- India
  • Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)                  
  • ARTICLE 19   
  • Asociación de Tecnología, Educación, Desarrollo, Investigación, Comunicación (TEDIC)- Paraguay
  • Association de defense des libertas individuelles- Tunisia
  • Association For Promotion Sustainable Development- India
  • Association for Victims of Torture in UAE- Switzerland
  • Badhon Manob Unnayan Sangstha- Bangladesh
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)          
  • Center for Civil Liberties- Ukraine
  • Center for Innovative and Pragmatic Development Initiative (CIPDI)            
  • Centre d’Appui a  l’Education et au Developpement Communautaire (CEDECO)- Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Centre for Social Mobilization and Sustainable Development       – Ghana
  • Centro de Estudios y apoyo al desarrollo Local- Bolivia
  • CIVICUS           
  • Comision Nacional de los Derechos Humanos- Dominican Republic
  • Committee for the Respect of Liberties and Human Rights in Tunisia            
  • Community Initiative for Social Empowerment (CISE)- Malawi                        
  • Community Uplift and Welfare Development (CUWEDE)- Uganda
  • Conacce Chaplains- Colombia
  • Construisons Ensemble le Monde                         Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Coordination Maghrébine des Organisations des Droits Humains- Morocco
  • Daniel Iroegbu Global Health Foundation- Nigeria
  • Educating Girls and Young Women for Development- Zambia
  • English PEN  
  • Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM)
  • European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)     
  • FINESTE- Haiti
  • Fraternity Foundation for Human Rights- Germany
  • Freedom Forum- Nepal
  • Freedom Now- Morocco
  • Front Line Defenders     
  • Fundacion CELTA- Venezuela
  • Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos (INREDH)- Ecuador
  • Fundacion TEA Trabajo Educacion Ambiente- Argentina
  • Future Leaders Network Gambia Chapter- Gambia
  • Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties- Switzerland
  • Global Learning for Sustainability- Uganda
  • Global Participe- Congo
  • Global Vision- Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Global Youth on the Quest for Developmental Networking- Gambia
  • Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)             
  • Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR)- Australia
  • HOPE Worldwide-Pakistan- New Zealand
  • Human Rights Defenders Network (ACPDH)- Burundi
  • Human Rights First          
  • Human Rights Foundation                 
  • Human Rights Watch     
  • Humena for Human Rights and Civic Engagement- Egypt
  • Hunger Reduction International- Somalia
  • IFEX                     
  • Innovation for Change – Middle East and North Africa 
  • International Campaign for Freedom in the United Arab Emirates (ICFUAE)                   
  • International Center for Supporting Rights and Freedoms- Switzerland       
  • International Centre for Justice and Human Rights- Switzerland
  • International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)      
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders       
  • International Legal Initiative- Kazakhstan
  • International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)                
  • International Youth Alliance for Peace- Sri Lanka
  • Iraqi Network for Social Media (INSM)- Iraq
  • Jeunesse Assistance- Niger
  • Justice Acess Point- Uganda
  • Kaimbu Sex Workers Association- Kenya
  • Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law- Kazakhstan
  • Legal Clinic Adilet- Kyrgyzstan
  • Liberia Freedom of Information Coalition- Liberia
  • Ligue Burundaise pour les Droits de la Femme- Burundi
  • Maharat Foundation- Lebanon
  • Martin Ennals Foundation- Switzerland
  • MENA Rights Group       
  • Middle East Studies Association of North America       
  • Most at Risk Populations in Uganda (MARPS)                  
  • National Campaing for Sustainable Development- Nepal
  • National Sudanese Women Association – Sudan
  • Norwegian PEN- Norway
  • Omani Association for Human Rights              
  • Organisation Marocaine des Droits Humains (OMDH)- Morocco
  • Pakistan NGOs Forum- Pakistan
  • Palestinian Center for Communication and Development Strategies- Palestine
  • Participatory Research Action Network (PRAN)- Bangladesh
  • PEN America                       
  • PEN Canada  
  • PEN International             
  • PEN Iraq
  • Plateforme d’Autonomisation des organisations de jeunesses de Côte d’ivoire (Paojci)- Cote D’Ivoire
  • Promo-LEX Association- Moldova
  • Qurium Media Foundation- Sweden
  • Reconciliation and Development Agency- Cameroon
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • Resilient Youth for Change- Zambia
  • Rights Realization Centre                   
  • Rise Initiative for Human Advocacy- South Sudan
  • Rotel Foundation for Social Development- Nigeria
  • Rukiga Forum for Development (RUFODE)- Uganda
  • Rural Development Foundation- Pakistan
  • Salam for Democracy and Human Rights      
  • Scholars at Risk                  
  • Sentinel for Human Rights                
  • Sierra Leone School Green Clubs- Sierra Leone
  • Society for Rural Women and Youth Development- Nigeria
  • SPEDYA-Africa- Togo
  • Street Children Empowerment Foundation- Ghana
  • Sukaar Welfare Organization- Pakistan
  • Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)          
  • Terres des Jeunes- Togo                     
  • TRIO Uganda- United Kingdom
  • Tunisian Association For Supporting Minority Rights- Tunisia
  • Tunisian League of Defending Human Rights- Tunisia
  • Union des Frères pour Alternatif de Développement Intégré (UFADI)- Haiti
  • Urnammu for Justice and Human Rights- Canada
  • Veritas Collective Foundation- Pakistan
  • Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State- Tunisia
  • Vijana Hope- Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Volunteers Welfare for Community Based Care of Zambia- Zambia
  • Wales PEN Cymru           
  • Women’s March Global                        
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders                  
  • Young Men Association- Botswana
  • Youth Action for Relentless Development Organization- Sierra Leone
  • Youth Advocacy Nepal- Nepal
  • Youth for the Mission- Jamaica
  • Youth Harvest Foundation- Ghana
  • YOUTHAID- Liberia

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