Skyline Condemns Arrests and Prosecution of Activists and Residents by UAE Authorities
Madrid - Skyline International condemns the escalation of violations committed by the Emirati authorities against its residents. Later, in October, a UAE court sentenced a Jordanian resident to 10 years in prison. He was detained due to criticizing his country's government. In this context, Skyline calls the authorities to undo those decisions and release all of their detainees.
In its press release statement issued today, Monday, Skyline gravely condemned the unlawful and unjustified judicial rulings against UAE's residents due to their peaceful political activity on social media. The last of which is a 10-year prison sentence issued against a Jordanian citizen residing in Emirates "Ahmed Al-Atoum” for his Facebook posts criticizing the economic and political conditions in Jordan.
Skyline said that before his arrest in May 2020, “Al-Atoum” lived in the UAE with his family for five years. He and his wife worked as teachers. Al-Atoum was known for his activity on Facebook. He used this platform to express his government's performance of the deteriorating social and economic conditions. In this regard, Skyline stresses that Al-Atoms posts on Facebook did not incite for violence or violate the law.
The international foundation “Skyline" states that the UAE authorities arrested “Al-Atoum” in May 2020 while he was walking back from a supermarket in Abu Dhabi with his two children. They forced him to get into the car, while his two children returned home alone. His family did not know his whereabouts until three weeks later, once "Al-Atoum" called them and told them that he was detained by the UAE and do not know his location.
According to media reports, Al-Atoum's family indicated that their son, was placed in solitary confinement for four months and that they were not allowed to visit him or contact with him for weeks. Those authorities have not permitted his lawyer to meet with him until his first hearing on August 12th. This hearing was carried out upon a decision from the “State Security Circuit” of the Court of Appeal on August 8, which convicted “Al-Atoum” of carrying out an act against a foreign country (Jordan) that could damage political relations between the UAE and Jordan and endanger the security of the UAE
The court sentenced Al-Atoum to 10 years in prison followed by deportation, the confiscation of his devices used “in the crime,” the deletion of incriminating posts, and the shutdown of his social media accounts. The court based the sentence on article 166 of the UAE penal code, which criminalizes “taking action against a foreign country that can harm political relations or expose the country’s citizens, employees, funds, or interests to acts of reprisal,” and carries a life sentence. The court reduced the sentence to 10 years on account of “mercy.” Article 201 of the penal code gives the court the authority to reduce a life sentence, but to no less than 10 years.
Mohammad Imad, Director of Legal Affairs and Policies at Skyline Foundation said that prison sentences and their consequences in detention centers indicate the suppression of the UAE against activists and journalists who express their views. They also reflect the real intention of those authorities to silence all voices expressing peoples' rights. Imad further stressed that the court ruling against “Al-Atoum” violates international standards that guaranteed freedom of opinion and expression, especially since his posts did not violate legal standards as the UAE judicial authorities claimed.
Imad added that “the absence of international oversight over the practices of the Emirati executive and judicial agencies, and the broadly warded laws that the authorities use, give an implicit cover for those authorities to further their violations against activists residing in the UAE. Consequently, Imad called on international bodies, especially the head of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to immediately take action and send investigation committees to monitor the UAE's prisons after the increase in arbitrary detention of its residents.
Skyline affirms that the charges against "Al-Atoum" contradict the basic principles of international law and Jordanian and Emirati law that guaranteed freedom of opinion and expression, especially Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 19 of UDHR and ICCPR provides individuals the right to express their opinions and beliefs without restriction or Prosecution. Accordingly, Skyline raises concern about the negative role of the Jordanian government towards the court ruling issued against one of its citizens. Al-Atoum's family held a sit-in several times, in front of the Jordanian Council of Ministers, calling for action and pressuring the UAE authorities to release their detained son.
At the end of its statement, Skyline called the UAE government for releasing Al-Atoum and undoing the unlawful imprisonment sentence issued against him. It further urges the authorities to allow individuals freely voicing their opinions without restriction or prosecution. Finally, it stresses that the Jordanian government must intervene to immediately release Al-Atoum and the rest of the Jordanian prisoners of conscience in the UAE's jails.