UAE – Authorities in the United Arab Emirates are implementing a widespread repressive campaign aimed at silencing any voices of opposition to their policies and legal decisions, amid a total absence of justice and respect for human rights.

The Emirati government has launched a campaignof arrests, summonses, and deportations, disregarding people’s right to freedom of speech. This is a worrying continuation of years-long restrictions on freedoms in the nation, and violations have only escalated in recent months.

Since establishing official relations with Israel in 2020, the UAE has prevented anti-normalisation positions and critical voices of Israel from being heard. This has been particularly true since 7 October 2023, when Israel began committing genocide against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.

Several Emirati nationals and foreign residents have recently been arrested and summoned as a result of their social media posts expressing opposition to Israeli crimes or the normalization ofties with Tel Aviv.

Those targeted were charged with incitement or attempting to destabilise internal security by publishing social media posts calling for a boycott of products of Israel and its allies, and advocating for solidarity and support for the Palestinians.

“K.H.”, a Jordanian national of Palestinian descent who requested anonymity due to safety concerns, has worked for five years as a contract employee in Dubai. He said that on 10 April 2024, he was summoned by the State Security Service headquarters in Abu Dhabi for interrogation over a Facebook post condemning Israel’s crime of genocide in the Gaza Strip.

After being questioned about his opinions, he was detained for three days before being forced to leave the UAE. During that time, he was not permitted access to a lawyer or allowed to submit any objection.

An Egyptian national, who also requestedanonymity due to safety fears, said that he was questioned by UAE security officials on 25 Marchover social media posts criticising Arab and Islamic inaction in light of the famine outbreak in the Gaza Strip during the holy month of Ramadan, and demanding an end to any kind of normalisation with Israel.

After being questioned for several hours in a security centre, he explained, he was informed that he had been fired from his position with a local company and would be deported to his home country. He was given 48 hours to leave, without the opportunity to object to the decision or seek legal recourse.

The UAE authorities have previously unlawfully detained foreign nationals, held them in cruel conditions, investigated them, and in some cases tortured them physically and psychologically before deporting them on fictitious charges.

UAE security services have also reportedly launched an intimidation campaign in Emirati universities, threatening academics and student activists if they disobey orders to refrain from protesting against Israel. 

Authorities in the country recently summoned a number of university professors, members of the Arab and Islamic communities, and social media activists to the State Security Service headquarters to caution them against planning any pro-Gaza events or openly voicing their opposition to Israel.

Emirati security authorities arrested activist Mansour Al-Ahmadi, who heads the Al-Quds Youth Committee, on 19 November 2023, after hewas summoned by the State Security Service in Abu Dhabi. His fate has remained unknown since then; consequently, he is deprived of any safeguards provided to him by relevant laws.

Although there have been rumours that authorities have so far denied Al-Ahmadi access to legal representation, the UAE security services haverefused to disclose his fate, his detention conditions, or the charges brought against him.

Al-Ahmadi was previously detained in October 2012 and given a seven-year prison sentence; however, he was not released from custody until April 2021.

Human rights breaches by UAE authorities, particularly the State Security Service, include enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture, and restrictions on the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. Additionally, detainees who are critical of the government are often held in deplorable conditions.

In a case known as “UAE 84”, the UAE authorities have been holding a mass trial against dozens of opinion activists, human rights advocates, and opponents for signing a petition over a decade ago demanding constitutional changes and the transfer of power in the country.

While hosting the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in December 2023, UAE authorities retried at least 84 individuals, most of whom had been unlawfully detained after serving their sentences.

The Emirati authorities released a statement on 6 January 2024 asserting that the 84 activists were “creating and managing a secret terrorist organisation, called the Dignity and Justice Committee”. They also mentioned that the Emirati Anti-Terrorism Law of 2014 penalizes individuals who found, organise, or oversee similar organisations, with life imprisonment or even the death penalty.

The trial is being conducted in secret, behind closed doors, in violation of both the right to a fair trial and the principle of trial publicity, as confirmed by the Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre (EDAC). The UAE authorities have also prevented international and local media from covering the trial sessions, detained the accused in secret prisons for more than 10 months—isolating them from the outside world—and forced them to sign documents confessing to “terrorist acts”.

The UAE has a long history of imprisoning individuals based on their backgrounds by disregarding their right to freedom of speech or opinion, all the while refusing to discuss or answer questions about these matters from human rights organisations.

United Arab Emirates authorities must be pressured to put an end to the climate of intimidation and repression imposed on Emirati citizens and foreign residents, and allow human rights organisations to visit detainees and verify detention conditions. Theauthorities should also immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders and individuals who have been detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and opinion; cease the illegal prosecution of these people; respect the right to freedom of opinion andexpression and peaceful demonstration, in accordance with their obligations under the local constitution and pertinent international agreements;and repeal any laws that violate human rights laws, including the 2014 Anti-Terrorism Law.