A coalition of international human rights groups on Tuesday criticized [report, PDF] the trial and sentencing of more than 60 activists in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) [BBC backgrounder]. Last month the Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi sentenced [JURIST report] a group of 69 people to prison for associating with the Reform and Social Guidance Association (al-Islah) [advocacy website, in Arabic], a group charged with plotting to overthrow the government. A coalition consisting of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, the International Federation of Human Rights, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies [advocacy websites] found the trial deeply flawed and "marred by recurrent and serious breaches of internationally agreed standards of fair trial." The report concludes that the failure to meet international legal standards has led to 69 unfair convictions of those exercising rights to freedom of expression, the dismissal of credible allegations of torture and the imposition of lengthy prison terms without giving them the right to appeal. The four organizations urged UAE authorities to initiate an impartial investigation of the allegations of torture, as well as an independent investigation into the conduct of the trial.
UAE authorities began arresting al-Islah members last March, when security forces arrested Ahmed al-Zaabi, a former judge, and Ahmed Ghaith al-Suwaidi together at a Dubai gas station. They detained the chairman of al-Islah, Sheikh Sultan Bin Kayed al-Qasimi, on April 20. In late April rights groups called on the UAE to stop the recent crackdown on political activists [JURIST report] by ending arrests and releasing those already in custody, expressing concern that the UAE is threatening to revoke prisoners' citizenship as a way of punishing them for expressing public dissent, an action that the advocacy groups contend violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text]. In July prominent human rights lawyer and al-Islah member Mohammed al-Roken, along with his son and son-in-law, were all detained [JURIST report] just a few days after the arrest of another prominent human rights lawyer, Mohammed Mansoori. A month later human rights lawyers Al-Roken and Mansoori began a hunger strike [JURIST report] to protest their detentions.