• Press Release

19 Civil Society Organizations Call on US Administration to Press the UAE to Release Ahmed Mansoor ahead of COP 28

August 30, 2023

On August 29, 2023, Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) and 16 additional civil society organizations delivered a letter urging U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to encourage the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government to immediately and unconditionally release Emirati human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor ahead of the 28th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) that will take place from November 30 to December 12, 2023.

In the letter, the organizations urged Secretary Blinken to call on the UAE government to immediately and unconditionally release Ahmed Mansoor and other jailed human rights defenders and peaceful critics both privately and publicly at the highest levels. The organizations also called on the Secretary to signal deep concern about Mansoor’s well-being and request permission to visit him in prison as soon as possible.

“With the world’s attention on Dubai, the US government should deliver on this administration’s promise to center human rights in its foreign policy and press the Emirati authorities to finally release Ahmed Mansoor,” said Elizabeth Rghebi, Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, “As a participant in COP28, the US government can demand the UAE demonstrate through this high profile release its commitment to the human rights principles required for healthy civic space at this upcoming global gathering.”

Governments have an obligation to protect the civic space for protest, in particular guaranteeing the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. Subjecting human rights defenders and critics to unlawful use of force, arbitrary detention, unfair trials, and abusive detention conditions violate these and other rights. The US government should work to uphold its obligations both at home and when engaging diplomatic partners.

Mansoor was arrested by Emirati authorities in March 2017 for “spreading false news” to “harm the reputation of the state.” All the charges on which he was convicted were based solely on his human rights advocacy, including using email and WhatsApp to communicate with human rights organizations. Following more than a year in isolation in pre-trial detention and a grossly unfair trial, an Emirati state security court sentenced Mansoor to 10 years in prison.

Throughout his imprisonment, Mansoor has been subjected to treatment that violates the prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, including being held in solitary confinement without access to reading materials, television, or radio. Since December 2017, he has been denied eyeglasses, most personal hygiene items and, at least until recently, a bed or mattress in his cell.