United Arab Emirates (UAE): Arbitrary detention of prominent writer and human rights defender
PEN is deeply concerned about the ongoing arbitrary detention of Ahmed Mansour Al Shehhi (أحمد منصور الشحي), a well-known writer and human rights defender who was arrested on March 20, 2017, for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. On April 4, 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 rumors as well as promoting a 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 calls upon the UAE authorities to immediately release Mr. Al Shehhi as well as to drop all charges against him, and to ensure full respect for 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:
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 Mansour 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. Mansour also has a blog where he covers various topics, including violations perpetrated against him because of his peaceful activities, freedom of expression in his country, 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 on March 20, 2017, Al Shehhi was reportedly arrested by dozens of uniformed security agents who broke into his home in the city of Ajman and confiscated 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 April 4, 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, particularly his regular appeals for the release of prisoners of conscience and the respect for public liberties and human rights. On March 19th, one day before his arrest, Al Shehhi 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 March 17, 2017, remains in prison after having served a three-year sentence.
UN rights experts consider 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 subjected to many human rights violations, including threats, travel bans, surveillance, arbitrary detentions, and ill-treatment. On April 8, 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. 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 the prison administration. PEN issued a RAN to express its concerns about this previous arrest and detention.
PEN 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 all writers and human rights defenders held for exercising their right to freedom of expression.