(Beirut) – Human Rights Watch and the Gulf Center for Human Rights said today that the health of Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor is deteriorating after more than three years in solitary confinement without basic necessities. Mansour is a member of an advisory board in both organizations.
Between December 2017 and March 2018, authorities removed his bed and deprived him of adequate winter clothes or hot water to leave him exposed to the winter cold in his cell. Mansour, 51, was diagnosed with high blood pressure in late 2018 and was not given any medicine to treat him, which puts him at high risk of heart disease and stroke.
Adam Coogle, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said, “This is the fourth winter that Ahmed Mansour has suffered in a dirty little isolation cell, just because of his human rights activism in a country bent on silencing anyone who deviates from official policy. There is no doubt that the ongoing isolation For years, the harsh conditions affected his mental and physical health. “
Sources with direct knowledge of Mansour’s conditions of detention told Human Rights Watch and the Gulf Center for Human Rights that authorities force him to sleep on the floor without a bed or mattress in a small isolation cell. In 2019, Mansour went twice on hunger strike to demand access to prisoners’ basic rights, including ending his solitary confinement and receiving essentials. His second hunger strike, which lasted about 45 days and during which he lost 11 kilograms, raised concerns for his health and sparked global calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
Emirati security forces arrested Mansoor on March 20, 2017, and for more than a year prevented him from contacting a lawyer and allowed only limited visits from his family. Mansour was sentenced to 10 years in prison in May 2018 after a closed trial for insulting the “prestige and stature of the UAE and its symbols,” including its leaders, over his peaceful calls for reform. On December 31, 2018, the Federal Supreme Court, the country’s court of last resort in state security cases, upheld the ruling against him, nullifying his last chance for early release.
The Emirati authorities have kept Mansour, since his arrest, in an isolation cell in Al-Sadr Prison, and have constantly prevented him from any contact with other prisoners, apparently to punish him, in conditions that may amount to torture. International law recognizes the harms of solitary confinement and its potentially devastating effects on the health and well-being of those who go through it.
The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the “Mandela Rules”) states that “Solitary confinement shall be used only in exceptional cases as a last resort, and for the shortest possible period, and subject to an independent review of the situation and upon the authorization of a competent authority.” The UN special rapporteur on torture has said that prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement for more than 15 days should be banned, citing scientific studies that have shown that even a few days of social isolation are capable of causing severe harm, including permanent psychological harm.
Human Rights Watch and the Gulf Center for Human Rights said that Emirati authorities should release Mansoor immediately and unconditionally, end his solitary confinement, and provide him with necessary medication, winter clothes, blankets, mattress, and a bed.
Khaled Ibrahim, Executive Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, said: “The Emirati authorities should celebrate Ahmed Mansoor’s human rights and humanitarian efforts for the benefit of UAE citizens instead of imprisoning him. His ill-treatment or torture will never deter him from his pursuit of his demands. We have known him for several years as a brave defender. , He showed his determination to achieve his desired goal, which is for everyone to obtain their rights. “