UN document: UAE keeping rights activists in jail past end of sentences

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UN says individuals held on 'discriminatory grounds'

Prisoner restrictions are growing, daughter says

UAE to host UN climate summit this year

Adds detail of rights' group's complaint in paragraph 10, reaction from daughter of detainee in paragraphs 12-14

By Emma Farge

GENEVA, June 2 (Reuters) -The United Arab Emirates is arbitrarily detaining 12 human rights activists who have already completed prison terms handed down over an alleged plot to overthrow the government, a U.N. document said on Friday.

It called for their immediate release.

The document was released three weeks after relatives of the prisoners and rights activists said that more than 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 began expiring in 2019.

The U.N. document said 12 dissidents whose multi-year sentences had all expired since July 2019 were being held due to their status as human rights defenders and because of their efforts "to hold the authorities to account".

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.

The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said the detentions violate several articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"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.

A list compiled by the Emirates Detainees Advocacy Center (EDAC) seen by Reuters showed 51 people being held beyond their terms in the UAE, which in November will host the COP28 climate conference.

The last summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, put Cairo'shuman rights record under a microscope and was used by activists as a way of pressuring the country to improve and rights defenders say they will do the same in the UAE.

The U.S.-allied UAE, a Gulf trading and tourism hub and big oil producer, does not allow political parties and shows little tolerance towards dissent. State and local media are tightly controlled and freedom of speech is restricted.

In its submission to the working group, the Geneva-based legal advocacy NGO MENA Rights Group alleged that Emirati authorities had extended the prisoners' detention indefinitely under the pretext of "rehabilitation needs" - a punishment permitted under the country's counter-terrorism legislation.

The daughter of one of the UAE detainees told Reuters conditions have become more restrictive and her father, Abdulsalam Al-Marzooqi, is no longer permitted phone calls or visits from family. Her father, a 52-year-old teacher, was up for release last July.

"There's no justification for the ten years that they spent in prison but keeping them for even more time, it's just too much," Jenan Al-Marzooqi told Reuters from the United States where she moved in 2016 after she said her family suffered retaliation from her father's case.

"No-one knows when they are going to be released," she said.

The U.N. working group's legal interpretations are non-binding and cannot be enforced.

Reporting by Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Lisa Barrington, Editing by Angus MacSwan


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