UAE: Guarantee an inclusive COP and release detained human rights defenders

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With the start of COP28 in Dubai in a month,  346 civil society organisations call on the Emirati authorities, UN and State Parties to guarantee an inclusive COP and release jailed human rights defenders in the UAE. The letter stresses the imperative for the organisers to put ordinary citizens, including excluded communities, at the centre of the conference as more 70,000 people gather from 30 November to 12 December 2023 for COP28.

“Climate justice and human rights are interconnected,” said Paul Belisario, IPMSDL. “An inclusive and effective COP 28 cannot be possible without a full recognition of the rights of all participants including those who defend these rights in the UAE.” 

The UAE remains one of the most restrictive countries for civil society and human rights rights defenders and should not use COP28 to mask its human rights record. UAE authorities continue to use restrictive laws including the Law on Combating Information Technology to criminalise freedom of expression and opinion and target human rights defenders, journalists and citizens expressing divergent views.  

In the letter, the signatories express concerns over the detention of human rights defenders and activists in the UAE, many of whom are being held beyond their sentences. Among the human rights defenders detained in the UAE is Ahmed Mansoor, who is currently serving a ten-year sentence. Mansoor has been held in conditions that violate basic international human rights standards, including solitary confinement, since he was arrested in March 2017.

More than 60 prisoners of conscience are currently detained despite the fact that they have completed their sentences. Most of them are part of a group of prisoners known as the UAE 94 who were arrested in 2012 for their activism and sentenced to prison terms of between 7 and 15 years after grossly unfair trials. These include human rights lawyer Mohammed Al-Roken and legal expert Hadef Al-Owais.

“There is still enough time for State Parties and the UN to work with the Emirati authorities to release all detained human rights defenders in the UAE,” said David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead, CIVICUS. “Hosting an event like COP in a location where peaceful human rights defenders are detained defeats the very purpose of the event.”

The letter calls on the COP28 organisers to set a new precedent in ensuring that states hosting international events lift restrictions on human rights, and release all human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience and guarantee inclusive and equal participation of all. 



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