UAE: Open letter to the Emirati authorities to free human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor on his 50th birthday

Your Excellency, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan,

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has recently announced multiple projects promoting pluralism and tolerance both at home and abroad. 2019 has been declared the‘Year of Tolerance’ and in 2020, Dubai will host the World Expo trade fair, under the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.’ UponDubai’s selection for this exhibition in 2013, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said: “[w]e renew our promise to astonish the world in 2020.” We welcome these public commitments to tolerance and open-mindedness.

It is in this same spirit that we, the undersigned, call upon the UAE government to immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, whose life we believe may be at risk following beatings and hunger strikes to protest deplorable and inhumane prison conditions. The Authorities have convicted and imprisoned him solely for his human rights work and for exercising his right to freedom of expression, which is also protected under the UAE’s Constitution. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience.

Before his imprisonment, Mansoor was known as ‘the last human rights defender left in the UAE’ on account of his fearless work to document human rights violations in the country. His willingness to speak out publicly in defence of human rights on his blog, via social media and in interviews with international media was an example to us all. He is also an engineer, a poet, and a father of four. He is on the advisory boards of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Human Rights Watch and was awarded the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

UAE authorities arrested Mansoor on 20 March 2017 at his home and subjected him to enforced and involuntary disappearance for over six months, with no access to a lawyer and sparse contact with his family, who did not know his exact whereabouts. The authorities held him in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time.

Shortly after his arrest,a group of United Nations human rights experts said that the UAE should release him immediately, describing his arrest as “a direct attack on the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the UAE.” They expressed fear that his arrest “may constitute an act of reprisal for his engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, for the views he expressed on social media, including Twitter.”

A year later, on 29 May 2018, Mansoor was sentenced under vague charges of “insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols, including its leaders”, “publishing false information to damage the UAE’s reputation abroad” and “portraying the UAE as a lawless land.” He received a sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of 1,000,000 UAE Dirhams (US$272,000), three years of probation after completion of his sentence, and confiscation of his electronic devices. On 31 December 2018, the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court upheld his conviction and sentence.

The UAE’s Government actions against Mansoor have been widely criticised. For instance, on 4 October 2018, the European Parliament adopted aresolution condemning Mansoor’s “harassment, persecution and detention, and calling for his release.” In May 2019, after he ended a month-long hunger strike to protest his unjust conviction and his detention conditions in Al-Sadr prison,a group of UN Special Rapporteurs stated that his conditions of detention “violate[d] basic international human rights standards and risk[ed] taking an irrevocable toll on Mr Mansoor’s health.” In September 2019, Mansoor was severely beaten for continuing his protests and he undertook yet another hunger strike. Nevertheless, he continues to be held in an isolation cellwith no running water or bed and is not permitted to leave his cell except for family visits.

In September 2019, the annual report of the UN Secretary General about reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN mechanisms cited Mansoor’s case. This was the fourth time that the Secretary General had denounced reprisals against him, having previously raised concerns in 2014, 2017 and 2018.

It is a tragedy and a disgrace for the UAE that this Tuesday, on 22 October of the UAE’s ‘Year of Tolerance’, Ahmed Mansoor will turn 50, alone in a prison cell in such deplorable conditions, simply for exercising his fundamental right to free speech and for speaking out against human rights violations.

Mansoor’s imprisonment is part of a larger and growing pattern of repression in the UAE. Since 2011, the authorities have embarked on an unprecedented campaign of repression on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association in the country, shrinking the space for peaceful dissent to near-obliteration. Authorities have used privately manufactured technologies, such as those made by NSO Group, for the unlawful targeted surveillance of human rights defenders, including Mansoor, in order to monitor and clamp down on dissent. The authorities have arrested, detained, and prosecuted activists, human rights defenders and other critics of the government, including prominent lawyers, judges and academics, on broad and sweeping national security-related or cybercrime charges and in proceedings that fail to meet international fair trial standards.

The UAE has publicly declared itself a champion of tolerance in the Middle East and the world. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it has an obligation to protect the rights of its citizens and residents. For this reason, we call upon the UAE government to uphold these principles, and to release Ahmed Mansoor without further delay.


  1. A Common Future- Cameroon
  2. Abraham’s Children Foundation- Nigeria
  4. Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT)-Belgium
  5. ACAT-Germany
  6. ACAT-Liberia
  7. ACAT-Switzerland
  8. Access Center for Human Rights-France
  9. Access Now
  10. Accountabilitylab- Niger
  11. Action by Christians Against Torture (ACAT) – France
  12. African Monitoring Observatory on Climate, Waters, Earth, and Cultures (AMOClimWEC)- Benin
  13. American Association of University Professors – New York University Chapter
  14. American Association of University Professors (AAUP)
  15. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
  16. Amis des Etrangers au Togo (ADET)- Togo
  17. Amman Center for Human Rights Studies- Jordan
  18. Amnesty International
  19. Angels in the Field- India
  20. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
  21. ARTICLE 19
  22. Asociación de Tecnología, Educación, Desarrollo, Investigación, Comunicación (TEDIC)- Paraguay
  23. Association de defense des libertas individuelles- Tunisia
  24. Association For Promotion Sustainable Development- India
  25. Association for Victims of Torture in UAE- Switzerland
  26. BadhonManobUnnayanSangstha- Bangladesh
  27. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  28. Center for Civil Liberties- Ukraine
  29. Center for Innovative and Pragmatic Development Initiative (CIPDI)
  30. Centre d’Appui a  l’Education et au Developpement Communautaire (CEDECO)- Democratic Republic of the Congo
  31. Centre for Social Mobilization and Sustainable Development – Ghana
  32. Centro de Estudios y apoyo al desarrollo Local- Bolivia
  34. Comision Nacional de los Derechos Humanos- DominicanRepublic
  35. Committee for the Respect of Liberties and Human Rights in Tunisia
  36. Community Initiative for Social Empowerment (CISE)- Malawi
  37. Community Uplift and Welfare Development (CUWEDE)- Uganda
  38. ConacceChaplains- Colombia
  39. Construisons Ensemble le Monde Democratic Republic of the Congo
  40. Coordination Maghrébine des Organisations des Droits Humains- Morocco
  41. Daniel Iroegbu Global Health Foundation- Nigeria
  42. Educating Girls and Young Women for Development- Zambia
  43. English PEN
  44. Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM)
  45. European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
  46. FINESTE- Haiti
  47. Fraternity Foundation for Human Rights- Germany
  48. Freedom Forum- Nepal
  49. Freedom Now- Morocco
  50. Front Line Defenders
  51. Fundacion CELTA- Venezuela
  52. Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos (INREDH)- Ecuador
  53. Fundacion TEA Trabajo Educacion Ambiente- Argentina
  54. Future Leaders Network Gambia Chapter- Gambia
  55. Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties- Switzerland
  56. Global Learning for Sustainability- Uganda
  57. Global Participe- Congo
  58. Global Vision- Democratic Republic of the Congo
  59. Global Youth on the Quest for Developmental Networking- Gambia
  60. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
  61. Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR)- Australia
  62. HOPE Worldwide-Pakistan- New Zealand
  63. Human Rights Defenders Network (ACPDH)- Burundi
  64. Human Rights First
  65. Human Rights Foundation
  66. Human Rights Watch
  67. Humena for Human Rights and Civic Engagement- Egypt
  68. Hunger Reduction International- Somalia
  69. IFEX
  70. Innovation for Change – Middle East and North Africa
  71. International Campaign for Freedom in the United Arab Emirates (ICFUAE)
  72. International Center for Supporting Rights and Freedoms- Switzerland
  73. International Centre for Justice and Human Rights- Switzerland
  74. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  75. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  76. International Legal Initiative- Kazakhstan
  77. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  78. International Youth Alliance for Peace- Sri Lanka
  79. Iraqi Network for Social Media (INSM)- Iraq
  80. Jeunesse Assistance- Niger
  81. Justice Acess Point- Uganda
  82. Kaimbu Sex Workers Association- Kenya
  83. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law- Kazakhstan
  84. Legal Clinic Adilet- Kyrgyzstan
  85. Liberia Freedom of Information Coalition- Liberia
  86. Ligue Burundaise pour les Droits de la Femme- Burundi
  87. Maharat Foundation- Lebanon
  88. Martin Ennals Foundation- Switzerland
  89. MENA Rights Group
  90. Middle East Studies Association of North America
  91. Most at Risk Populations in Uganda (MARPS)
  92. National Campaing for Sustainable Development- Nepal
  93. National Sudanese Women Association – Sudan
  94. Norwegian PEN- Norway
  95. Omani Association for Human Rights
  96. Organisation Marocaine des Droits Humains (OMDH)- Morocco
  97. Pakistan NGOs Forum- Pakistan
  98. Palestinian Center for Communication and Development Strategies- Palestine
  99. Participatory Research Action Network (PRAN)- Bangladesh
  100. PEN America
  101. PEN Canada
  102. PEN International
  103. PEN Iraq
  104. Plateforme d’Autonomisation des organisations de jeunesses de Côte d’ivoire (Paojci)- Cote D’Ivoire
  105. Promo-LEX Association- Moldova
  106. Qurium Media Foundation- Sweden
  107. Reconciliation and Development Agency- Cameroon
  108. Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  109. Resilient Youth for Change- Zambia
  110. Rights Realization Centre
  111. Rise Initiative for Human Advocacy- South Sudan
  112. Rotel Foundation for Social Development- Nigeria
  113. Rukiga Forum for Development (RUFODE)- Uganda
  114. Rural Development Foundation- Pakistan
  115. Salam for Democracy and Human Rights
  116. Scholars at Risk
  117. Sentinel for Human Rights
  118. Sierra Leone School Green Clubs- Sierra Leone
  119. Society for Rural Women and Youth Development- Nigeria
  120. SPEDYA-Africa- Togo
  121. Street Children Empowerment Foundation- Ghana
  122. Sukaar Welfare Organization- Pakistan
  123. Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
  124. Terres des Jeunes- Togo
  125. TRIO Uganda- United Kingdom
  126. Tunisian Association For Supporting Minority Rights- Tunisia
  127. Tunisian League of Defending Human Rights- Tunisia
  128. Union des Frères pour Alternatif de Développement Intégré (UFADI)- Haiti
  129. Urnammu for Justice and Human Rights- Canada
  130. Veritas Collective Foundation- Pakistan
  131. Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State- Tunisia
  132. Vijana Hope- Democratic Republic of the Congo
  133. Volunteers Welfare for Community Based Care of Zambia- Zambia
  134. Wales PEN Cymru
  135. Women’s March Global
  136. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  137. Young Men Association- Botswana
  138. Youth Action for Relentless Development Organization- Sierra Leone
  139. Youth Advocacy Nepal- Nepal
  140. Youth for the Mission- Jamaica
  141. Youth Harvest Foundation- Ghana
  142. YOUTHAID- Liberia