Human Rights Day in United Arab Emirates

While millions of people from all over the world are celebrating the International Human Rights Day by demanding an end to the ongoing human rights abuses in many places, activists in United Arab Emirates are not able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly (whether by organizing protests or writing about authorities’ violations). They are intimidated to use social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook to share the stories of political detainees and prisoners of conscience or any other violation that the government is exercising in the name of “national security”. Most of them can't join “Human Rights Day” Twitter campaigns.

Recently, a very young activist, Mohamed El-Zumer  (18 years old) was arrested for his Twitter posts that support political detainees in UAE and demand their release. He is the youngest political detainee, arrested for voicing his opinions by using Twitter. His arrest came following a cyber-crimes decree that attacks free speech. Human Rights Watch said that the Federal Legal Decree no.5/2012 vague words provide a legal basis to prosecute and jail people who use information technology to, among other things, criticize senior officials, argue for political reform, or organize unlicensed demonstrations. The decree threatens activists, bloggers, and ordinary citizens who exercise their rights to freedom of expression.

El-Zumer's family told Emirates Centre for Human Rights (ECHR) that after arresting him, and searching his home, he was taken to an unknown destination. By arresting El-Zumer, the number of political detainees, that I am aware of, has raised to 64 detainees. Many of those detainees are in unknown places, and their families don't have access to them. There have been no fair trials, and most of the government's claims are that those peaceful activists pose a threat to the national security.

On the International Human Rights Day, those detainees must not be forgotten. Tweeting on their behalf is what I and many other human rights activists will do today. Freedom of expression is a priority for human rights activists, regardless of the detainees’ opinions or political backgrounds.

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