UAE Uses Travel Bans to Stifle Dissent
Freedom House denounces efforts by UAE officials to impose a travel ban on human rights defenders and bloggers and calls on the Emerati government to lift these restrictions and to cease all efforts to stymie freedom of expression. Such bans are the latest in a series of measures aimed at silencing calls for reform among peaceful activists.
Musabeth Al Rumaithy and Rashid Al Shamsy are the most recent activists to face travel restrictions. Both have used Twitter to urge the government to extend greater freedom to UAE citizens. Authorities detained Al Rumaithy at the border with Oman on June 28, 2012, informing him of his ban as he prepared to leave for a trip with his family. Al Shamsy was stopped two days earlier at the airport immigration office. Officials cited instructions from State Security in Abu Dhabi to prevent him from leaving the country. When Al Shamsy asked to see documents outlining his ban, he was refused.
These actions appear to be part of a larger effort to curb activism among human rights defenders in the region. Last year members of a group of activists known as the “UAE 5” spent 8 months in jail for “publicly insulting” the government in an internet forum. While the bloggers received a royal pardon on November 28, 2011—following an error-riddled trial—one activist, Ahmed Abdul Khaleq, was re-arrested on May 22, 2012 and threatened with deportation. Khaleq’s blog, Emaraty Bedoon, has drawn attention to the plight of the stateless Bedoon people who, lacking official documentation, are unable to leave the country. Between 10,000 and 100,000 currently live in UAE.
Other activists, such as Ahmed Mansoor, Dr. Mohammed Al Mansoory, and Jumaa Felasy, face similar travel bans. They, as well as others, have been banned from leaving the country, often for no apparent reason apart from State Security instructions. Moreover, many have been put on trial on trumped-up charges stemming from their travel bans. Freedom House is deeply concerned that such cases are not assigned to a judge at random, but rather heard by judges with known political ties.
Freedom in the World 2011: United Arab Emirates
Freedom of the Press 2011: United Arab Emirates