x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Emirati human rights group saw no evidence of prisoner abuse

UAE sedition trial: Observers who monitored the trial of the 94 accused from their detention until the verdict was delivered found it was conducted in an atmosphere of transparency and clarity, the Emirates Human Rights Association said yesterday.

Mohammed Salem Al Kaabi, an Emirates Human Rights Association board member who monitored the trial, said the sentences were handed fairly “in accordance with the laws of the UAE regardless of the accused's position in society”. Christopher Pike / The National
Mohammed Salem Al Kaabi, an Emirates Human Rights Association board member who monitored the trial, said the sentences were handed fairly “in accordance with the laws of the UAE regardless of the accused's position in society”. Christopher Pike / The National

DUBAI // Observers who monitored the trial of the 94 accused from their detention until the verdict was delivered found it was conducted in an atmosphere of transparency and clarity, the Emirates Human Rights Association said yesterday.

Association board members said the trial and verdict were fair and just, and the judges honest and diligent in their handling of the case.

Four board members attended every session of the four-month trial, and three of them conducted a news conference yesterday at the association's headquarters in Dubai.

"The sentences were handed fairly in accordance with the laws of the UAE regardless of the accused's position in society," said Mohammed Salem Al Kaabi, a board member and one of the four who monitored the trial.

"One of the people convicted was a member of a ruling family, he received no leniency or special treatment, and this proves that it was a just and fair trial."

Mr Al Kaabi said there was no need for international human-rights bodies to have observed the proceedings. "There are 148 associations dealing with human rights issues in the UAE, which are enough to ensure that the right of the detainees are protected. I don't think we need outside monitoring," he said.

"The judges allowed every detainee the chance to speak for themselves with total freedom and without any criticism," said Jamila Al Hamli, an association board member who also monitored the trial.

The association said it would continue to monitor the imprisonment of those who were convicted and ensure their rights were not infringed upon, "Our job doesn't stop with the verdict, it is ongoing," Mr Al Kaabi said.

Ali Salem Al Qaishi, head of the association's committee on prisoner and detainee protection and one of the four monitors, said that they had not received any complaints of abuse or torture from the accused during the trial.

"From our own monitoring we saw no signs of abuse and no complaints were made to us. But a number of them did say in court that they were tortured, and we immediately raised the need for an investigation on the matter, which was conducted, but we have not yet received the results of the investigation."

Asked about photographs that are said to show signs of torture of the detainees, Mr Al Qaishi said that was impossible. "If we can't take photographs and none of the detainees have access to a camera, where did they get photographs to publish?"

The association said they received more than 20 complaints from the families of the accused, but none of them were about the trial.

"The complaints were about longer visitation times, which we were able to get for them. We also ensured that their salaries were still being paid throughout their detainment, that was also a major complaint," said Mr Al Kaabi.

"This trial rocked the Emirati community, the Emirati people are very down to earth and I hope that this will be the last of such cases."

Ms Al Hamli said the association would also monitor the 25 people who were acquitted. "As per the UAE law they are entitled to return to their jobs without suffering any penalties," she said. "I want to tell everyone to respect those acquitted as well as those convicted. The UAE is a young country and these cases are new to us and we have to show them that they are still part of our society."

"They are our friends and families. They made mistakes and are now making amends, we will ensure their safety," said Mr Al Kaabi.

Mr Al Kaabi said it was too soon to think about whether the association would present a letter to the President, Sheikh Khalifa, to ask for leniency for those convicted.

malkhan@thenational.ae