United Arab Emirates


The United Arab Emirates (UAE)


Human Rights Overview

The government continued to commit serious human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, cruel and inhuman treatment of detainees, suppression of freedom of expression, and violation of the right to privacy. A number of detainees remained in prison past the completion of their sentences without legal justification. The UAE government continued to deprive stateless individuals of the rights to nationality, impacting their access to a range of services. Courts passed death sentences and executions were reported.

THE UAE continues to be involve as a party to the conflict in Yemen, which saw a range of egregious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. It also continues its involvement with the conflict in Libya through its support for the Libyan Arab Armed Forces, which committed violations of international and human rights law.

Arbitrary Detention

The UAE continued to arbitrarily detain Emirati and foreign nationals. In January 2022, authorities transferred the Syrian national AbdelRahman al-Nahhass to al-Wathb prison in Abu Dhabi emirate after holding him incommunicado in pre-trial detention in an unknown location for 13 months. The office of public prosecution and his government-assigned lawyer refused to give charges in writing to his family.

The UAE continued to hold detainees past completion of their prison terms based on court orders under its “counter-extremism” counselling law which cannot be appealed. Articles 40 and 48 of the counter- terrorism law (Federal Act No. 7 of 2014) stated that those “adopting extremist or terrorist thought” may be held indefinitely in prison for “counselling”. Most such prisoners were held at al-Razin prison in the desert south-east of Abu Dhabi city.

In March and April, 10 men, who were arrested in 2012 as part of a crackdown on peaceful dissent and political opposition, were due to be released after completing their sentences, yet they remain locked up. The men were among 94 Emiratis who were prosecuted in the ‘UAE-94’ case, and among 69 who received unappealable prison sentences following a grossly unfair mass trial.  Amnesty International has documented how 24 Emiratis imprisoned for the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association have been held past completion of their sentences since 2017. Seven of them were eventually released, and the other 17 are still in prison.


Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment

Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment continues in prisons. Human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor remained in solitary confinement since 2017 without any bedding other than two thin, dirty blankets and without adequate personal hygiene items.

In June 2021, the authorities arbitrarily detained at lest 375 African male and female migrant workers and took them to al-Wathba prison overnight. They were held incommunicado for up to six weeks in overcrowded cells without enough beds or toilets, and deported without due process or legal representation. Police and guards mistreated at least 18 of these detainees, including racist insults and forced nudity.


Freedom of Expression

More than 25 prisoners of conscience remained in jail on account of their peaceful political criticism. They included attorneys Mohamed al-Roken and Mohammed al- Mansoori, former heads of the UAE Jurists Association (which the government took over in 2011 after the Association called for free national elections), who were convicted in the UAE-94 trial; Nasser bin Ghaith, a lecturer in economics at Sorbonne University’s Abu Dhabi branch, detained since 2015; and human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor.

Amnesty International interviewed family members of six “UAE-94” prisoners who described how they and their imprisoned loves ones have suffered over the past nine years, with some of the prisoners held incommunicado for years and relatives subjected to acts of reprisal.

Government agencies in Dubai and Ajman warned that they would prosecute individuals who spread information about COVID-19 deemed misleading by authorities.

In April 2021, the government sentenced prisoners Maryam al-Balushi and Amina al-Abdouli to three more years in prison for “publishing information that disturb public order”, after they had released a voice recordings of their grievances abut prison conditions.


Rights to Privacy

In July 2021, UAE revealed as one of 11 countries that were clients of NSO Group, a company specialized in cyber surveillance. Amnesty International as part of the Pegasus project, found that Pegasus had been used to hack devices of several Emiratis and foreigners, including Emirati prime minister ex-wife and her two lawyers, Emirati dissident Alaa al-Siddiq (who died in a car crash in UK last year), and a UK national David Haigh.


Arbitrary Deprivation of Nationality

The estimated 20,000-100,000 stateless people born in the UAE continued to be deprived of equal access to rights covered for Emirati citizens at state expense, such as state-subsidized health care, housing and higher education, or jobs in the public sector. Access was dependent on proof of citizenship and stateless people were denied recognition as citizens, despite most of them having roots in the UAE going back generations. Stateless Emiratis given Comorian passports under a 2008 deal between Comoros and the UAE found it difficult or impossible to get these passports renewed, leaving many of them, once again, lacking basic identity documents.

Women’s Rights

Women remained unequal with men under Emirati law. Married women were obliged “to look after the house” as a “right” held by husbands under Article 56.1 of the Law on Personal Status. The Article was amended in late 2019 to remove a line stating that a husband has the right to “courteous obedience” from his wife.

Article 72 continued to allow judges to determine whether a married woman was permitted to leave the house and to work. In the past two years Amnesty International had reported that Article 53.1 of the Penal Code, recognizing “a husband’s discipline of his wife” as “an exercise of rights,” was still in effect, but in 2020 the organization learned that this clause was removed in late 2016.

Transmission of nationality continued to be granted on a gender-preferential basis, meaning that children of Emirati mothers did not automatically receive nationality and were recognized as nationals only at the discretion of the federal cabinet.

In September 2021, the UAE annulled Article 334 of the Penal Code, which had made “honor” killings punishable by as little as one month in jail.


Sexual and Reproductive Rights

Since 2021 there have not been any documented prosecutions of consensual sexual acts under Article 356 of the Penal Code. However, vague language criminalizing “scandalous act(s) offending modesty” remained under Article 358 of the Penal Code.


Migrants’ Rights

The sponsorship (kafala) system for employing migrant workers in the UAE – alongside unsanitary living conditions in overcrowded accommodations, scarce legal protection and limited access to preventive health care and treatment.

On the night of 24-25 June 2021, police in Abu Dhabi broke into the homes of hundreds of migrant workers as they slept, targeting Black Africans in racially motivated arrests, detained them for weeks in al-Wathba prison and subsequently deported them without due process. While in detention, the authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) subjected them to inhuman and degrading treatment and stripped them of nearly all their belongings. These African workers were living and working in the UAE legally.


Death Penalty

Courts continued to issue new death sentences, primarily against foreign nationals for violent crimes. At least one execution was recorded in 2021.