The 74th session of the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) will take place from 12 July to 29 July.
On this occasion, the UN Committee will review the United Arab Emirates on July 13th and 14th. We recall that the UAE report comes late, almost 10 years after the State ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Degrading or inhuman Treatment and Other Cruel Degrading or Inhuman Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).
In this context, AVTUAE submitted an alternative report in which it drew the attention of the Committee to the seriousness of the human rights situation in the country and expressed its primary concerns:
Lack of clear definition and criminalisation of torture in the domestic legislation
According to article 4 UNCAT, “Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law”. In the UAE although the prohibition is enshrined in law, the provision is not in line with the UNCAT and human right standards, as it is very vaguely worded and does not provide a clear definition of “torture”. Moreover, the definition does not explicitly stipulate the absolute prohibition of torture under all circumstances although it is requested by the UNCAT art.2(2).
Fundamental procedural guarantees
Although procedural guarantees for detainees are provided by Emirati law, numerous testimonies received by AVTUAE, show that they are, in practice, violated by the country’s authorities at the different procedure levels. In this context, we recall that failure to respect fundamental legal safeguards creates a fertile ground for torture and other ill-treatments.
- Arbitrary arrests
Many testimonies and reports received by AVTUAE have established the existence of systematic violations of procedural guarantees by police forces during arrests. Reports of night raids, violent arrests and arbitrary searches are systematic during arrests. In most of the cases, suspects were arrested without being shown an arrest warrant and without being informed of the reason for the arrest.
- Prolonged Custody and use incommunicado detention
Despite the guarantees provided by Emirati law, in practice and in most of the case, the victims were detained without charges for months before being brought before a judicial authority. In the hands of State Security forces, the police custody takes place in a secret location and the detainees are not allowed to contact their families or seek a lawyer. Interrogations are conducted without the presence of a lawyer and often under torture. Finally, incommunicado detention is systematic in cases handled by State Security which keeps victims detained for months outside the protection of the law.
- Interrogation, forced confessions and right to a legal counsel
Interrogations are systematically carried out without the presence of a lawyer, particularly in cases with political considerations. Very often, written confessions are prepared and signed by the accused under duress before the first appearance before a judicial authority.
Systematic torture and violation of the right to medical care in detention facilities
The state report does not provide any information on actual practices or conditions of detention inside the detention centers.
In recent years, the high number of reported cases of torture and ill-treatment has illustrated a widespread and systematic use of physical and psychological torture in UAE detention facilities (beatings, sleep deprivation, sexual harassment, rape, exposure to extreme temperatures, and other serious abuses).
Moreover, AVTUAE is also concerned about the lack of medical care. Testimonies reveal that no medical examination is performed at the entry of the detention facility. Furthermore, detainees are systematically denied adequate medical care even despite the deterioration of their health condition.
Human rights violation in the context of the fight against terrorism and administrative detention
The Federal Law No. 7 on Combatting terrorism offences, adopted in 2014, provides an extremely broad and imprecise non-exhaustive list of the notion of “terrorism”, including different acts without specifying, for example, the violent nature of the act. Any activity related to freedom of expression, especially on social networks, is considered a terrorist offense. It allows human rights violations, including several breaches to legal safeguards. Therefore, victims are systematically removed from the protection of the law while in police custody, are prohibited from any contact with the outside world or with a lawyer.
According to the law, the authorities may also detain any person by simple administrative decision, including persons who have served their sentence. These detentions take place in Munasaha centers (centers for moral and religious rehabilitation), are without time limitation and constitute in themselves cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
Lack of formal investigations as well as the lack of accountability for the perpetrators
In his report, AVTUAE underlines the climate of impunity in the country, which is due, in part, to the absence of an effective complaint mechanism but also to the denial of the Emirati judicial authorities to allegations of torture. Complaints of torture and ill-treatment filed with the judiciary are ignored by the authorities and not investigated. Furthermore, victims refrain from denouncing these practices for fear of reprisals.
AVTUAE also highlight the lack of independence of the judiciary, which is still under the control of the executive and the National Security services.
During the CAT 74th session, Mr Naji Hamdan, President of AVT-UAE, was invited to testify before the group of experts about the practices of the United Arab Emirates authorities, of which he was a victim. He will also report on the numerous testimonies that he continues to receive, which demonstrate that the practice of torture is systematic and widespread in the country.
To read the full report: Report by AVTUAE to the UN Committee against Torture