Geneva — Mr. Mohamed al-Mansoori, Mr. Hassan Mohammed Al-Hammad, Mr. Hadif Rashed Abdullah al-Owais, Mr. Ali Saeed Al-Kindi and Mr. Salim Hamdoon Al-Shahhi are part of the so-called "UAE94", a group of 94 lawyers, human rights defenders and academics who were sentenced to 10 years in prison in July 2013 for plotting to overthrow the Government.
The proceedings against them were initiated in the context of an escalated crackdown by the authorities of the United Arab Emirates against individuals and organisations calling for peaceful political reform.
"Their sentences were excessively severe and their detentions have been declared arbitrary according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention," said Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. "They should have never been detained in the first place for legitimately exercising the freedoms that all people are entitled to.
"There are worrying allegations that they are subjected to long periods in solitary confinement, which could amount to torture," Lawlor said. Other allegations include authorities turning off the air conditioning as temperatures rose above 40°C, and windows being covered, preventing prisoners from seeing sunlight.
Lawlor said that their trials might have violated their right to a fair trial, denying or severely limiting their access to legal counsel, including during interrogations.
"I call on the Emirati authorities to release these human rights defenders from detention in order to continue their meaningful and necessary human rights work," Lawlor said.
The expert is in contact with the authorities on this matter.
Lawlor's call is endorsed by Ms. Elina Steinerte (Chair), Ms. Miriam Estrada-Castillo (Vice-Chair), Ms. Leigh Toomey, Mr. Mumba Malila and Ms. Priya Gopalan, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.