The United Arab Emirates is arbitrarily detaining a dozen human rights activists who have already completed their prison terms, a U.N. document showed on Friday, urging the government to immediately release them and allow them to seek compensation.
The document was released three weeks after relatives of the prisoners and rights activists said that over 50 people sentenced for plotting to overthrow the UAE government were being held months and years after their jail terms had ended.
The dissidents are part of the so-called “UAE94” – a group of 94 lawyers, rights advocates and academics tried in 2013 and whose jail terms in the UAE – the Middle East’s trade and tourism hub – began expiring in 2019.
The U.N. document said 12 dissidents whose multi-year sentences had all expired since July 2019 were being held “on discriminatory grounds, owing to their status as human rights defenders and on the basis of their political or other opinion in seeking to hold the authorities to account”.
Their detention violates several articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to the opinion issued by issued by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
“The appropriate remedy would be to release all the 12 individuals immediately and accord them an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law,” it said.
The document said the UAE did not respond to the opinion within the 60-day limit.
The UAE foreign ministry did not respond to Reuters requests for comment. UAE authorities have previously said allegations that prisoners were being held beyond the completion of their sentences were false and unsubstantiated.
A list compiled by Emirates Detainees Advocacy Center (EDAC) seen earlier by Reuters showed 51 people being held beyond their terms in the UAE, which in November will host the COP28 climate conference.