United Arab Emirates (UAE): Arbitrary detention of prominent writer and human rights defender
12 April 2017
RAN 07/17 –
PEN International is deeply concerned about the ongoing arbitrary detention of Ahmed Mansoor al-Shehhi (أحمد منصور الشحي), a well-known writer and human rights defender who was arrested on 20 March 2017 for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. On 4 April 2017, Al Shehhi was transferred to the high security al-Sadr prison in Abu Dhabi after being charged by the Public Prosecution for Cybercrimes of publishing false information and rumours as well as promoting sectarian agenda through his writings on social media. PEN believes that Al Shehhi’s charges are in violation of the right to freedom of expression and call upon the UAE authorities to immediately release Mr. Al Shehhi as well as to drop all charges against him, and to ensure full respect of his right to freedom of expression and opinion.
Urge the UAE authorities to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release writer and human rights defender Ahmed Mansour Al Shehhi;
- Drop the criminal charges against Al Shehhi;
- Ensure the full respect of his rights as a prisoner, in accordance with international human rights standards;
- Ensure the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression, including the release of all detainees held solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights.
- Sign and ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
Please write to:
Minister of Justice
M. Sultan Saeed al-Badi
Ministry of Justice
PO Box: 260
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Fax: +971 2 6810680
Minister of Interior
Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Zayed Sport City, Arab Gulf Street,
PO Box: 398
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Fax: +971 2 402 2762 / +971 2 441 5780
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for UAE in your country if possible. A list of embassies can be found here.
Please inform PEN of any action you take, and of any responses you receive.
Ahmed Mansoor al-Shehhi (أحمد منصور الشحي), a 47 year-old Emirati citizen, is a writer and poet; he published a poetry collection in Arabic entitled Beyond the Failure as well as many articles about human rights and the necessity of political reform in his country. Mansoor also has a blog where he used to write on various topics, including articles about the violations that he is subjected to because of his peaceful activities, as well as about the situation of freedom of expression and prisoners of conscience in the UAE. Al Shehhi is the winner of the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.
Early in the morning of 20 March 2017, Al Shehhi was reportedly arrested by dozens of uniformed security agents who broke into his home in the city of Ajman confiscating all electronic devices, including phones and laptops belonging to all the members of his family. Al Shehhi was first held at Abu Dhabi Central Prison al-Wathba before being transferred to the heavily guarded al-Sadr prison in Abu Dhabi, on 4 April 2017 as reported by the International Campaign for Freedom in the United Arab Emirates.
According to the Emirates News official Agency, Al Shehhi was arrested for his alleged use of social media sites to publish false and misleading information, which could harm national unity and social harmony, and damage the country’s reputation. It is believed that Al Shehhi’s arrest is due to his articles critical of the Emirati authorities, more particularly his regular appeal for the release of prisoners of conscience and the respect of public liberties and human rights. On 19 March, one day before his arrest, Al Shehhi had posted a Tweet on the Gulf Centre for Human Rights Twitter account calling for “the immediate release of human rights defender Osama-Al-Najjar as his sentence expires”. Al-Najjar, who was due to be released on 17 March 2017, remains in prison after having served-out a three-year prison sentence.
UN rights experts have considered that Al Shehhi’s arrest and detention “may constitute as an act of reprisal for his engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, for the views he expressed on social media, including Twitter, as well as for being an active member of organizations such as the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, and an active supporter of others, including Human Rights Watch.”
Al Shehhi has been previously subjected to many human rights violations, including threats, travel ban, surveillance, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment. On 8 April 2011, he was arrested, along with four other activists, and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for “insulting officials” after signing a petition calling for democratic and economic reforms. However, he was pardoned and released in November 2011 after being arbitrarily detained for eight months at Al-Wathba prison, where he had been ill-treated and denied adequate health care by prison administration. PEN International issued a RAN to express its concerns about this previous arrest and detention.
PEN International continues to call for the Emirati authorities to protect the rights of all citizens and residents to freely express their views, whether as citizens, journalists, or writers, as well as to release of all writers and human rights defenders held for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
For any further information, please contact Nael Georges, PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, 162-164 Abbey Street, London SE1 2AN | Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 | Email: Nael.Georges@pen-international.org