Ahmad Mekkaoui at risk of torture at Al-Wathba prison

Illegally arrested, tortured in a secret detention centre, and unlawfully sentenced to 15 years in prison, Ahmad Mekkaoui is once again detained incommunicado and faces a risk of torture.

The AVT-UAE has learnt with great concern that Ahmad Mekkaoui has been kept in solitary confinement for the past three months. Since April 11th, 2019, Ahmad has not been able to communicate with his family. His loved ones expressed concerns about his safety and his health condition.

It has been approximately five years since Lebanese citizen, Ahmad Ali Mekkaoui, was arrested in the United Arab Emirates on unfounded charges. On October 13th, 2014, plain-clothed state security agents raided Ahmad Mekkaoui’s house late at night and searched the residence without providing a search warrant. He was later taken to an undisclosed location where he was held in solitary confinement for seven months without being allowed to contact his family, nor having the right to seek a lawyer.

During these seven months in secret detention, Mekkaoui was subjected to inhumane treatment and continuously tortured. AVT-UAE was informed that the victim was severely beaten on the head, the body, and was also sexually abused by the torturers. Due to the systematic torture and cruel treatment he went through, Ahmad’s health condition significantly deteriorated, and he had to undergo several surgeries. Ahmad was not able to take all the pain inflicted on him during his incommunicado detention, and he ultimately signed the written confessions under duress.

Seven months after his arrest, Ahmad finally appeared for the first time before the State Security Prosecutor. During the hearing, he reported the torture and inhumane treatment that he had been subjected to, and testified that he was forced to sign the written confessions. However, the Prosecutor refused to open an investigation, and charged him with “belonging to a terrorist group.” He was then transferred to Al-Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi where he has been kept since.

It was only two years later that his trial started before the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court. Ahmad was denied access to his lawyer before his trial, which is, in fact, a total violation of his fair trial guarantees. On December 4th, 2016, after seven hearings, the court sentenced him to fifteen years imprisonment on the sole basis of the confessions extracted under torture.

On September 15th, 2017, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) issued an opinion recognising that Mekkaoui’s deprivation of liberty was arbitrary and calling for his immediate release. The opinion of the Working Group outlined the absence of a legal basis for Ahmad’s detention and the violation of the procedural safeguards. Despite this opinion and the serious concerns raised by the WGAD on his physical and psychological condition, Ahmad Mekkaoui remains in jail.

On April 11th, 2019, he was transferred to solitary confinement in a dark, windowless cell. On the same day, Ahmad called his sister to inform her that the prosecution filed a new case against her, his lawyer and himself. The prosecution charged them with “publishing false information to damage the reputation of the UAE.” This charge refers to a news report, in which his sister and lawyer spoke out on public TV that Ahmad had been subjected to torture on the hands of UAE authorities. That was the last time Ahmad’s voice was heard. The family has not received any new information about him since.

The victim is now held incommunicado, outside the protection of the law, and is facing a high risk of torture and ill-treatment. The AVT-UAE is all the more concerned about Ahmad’s physical integrity, given his poor health condition. He is, in fact, still suffering from the effects of torture till this day.

Despite the ratification of the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) in 2012, the United Arab Emirates continues to violate the convention’s provisions and systematically uses torture as a tool of repression, while granting full impunity to the perpetrators. This issue was stressed upon by the former Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, who noted, during her visit to the UAE, that “there were no independent investigations undertaken into allegations of torture”.

The AVT-UAE calls upon the international community to urge the Emirati authorities to fully comply with their obligations under international human rights law and immediately put an end to the arbitrary detention of Ahmad Mekkaoui.

We further urge the United Arab Emirates to immediately grant him contact with his family and lawyer, open an immediate and impartial investigation into his allegations of torture, and hold accountable all those who were involved in the deprivation of Ahmad Mekkaoui’s human rights.

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