UAE: Three sisters released after three months in secret detention for tweeting
Three sisters were reunited with their family today after spending three months in secret detention after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities subjected them to enforced disappearance, Amnesty International said. They were detained after posting comments on Twitter on behalf of their brother, a prisoner of conscience in the Gulf state.
According to Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent human rights defender, the sisters, Asma Khalifa al-Suwaidi, Mariam Khalifa al-Suwaidi and Dr Alyaziyah Khalifa al-Suwaidi, were dropped off at their family home at close to noon local time today.
They had not been heard from since they were summoned for questioning at an Abu Dhabi police station on 15 February and then taken into the custody of the UAE’s state security apparatus.
“It is not yet known what pressure the al-Suwaidi sisters were under while in detention, if they were charged with any offence, or if their release carries any conditions,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa programme.
“What is clear, however, is that these three women should never have been detained in the first place. If necessary, we’ll continue to campaign on the world stage to call for all charges and conditions to be dropped.
“Enforced disappearance is a crime under international law. It is a chilling act of repression for the state to silence activists’ families by locking them up for months, with no access to their loved ones or the outside world.
"While the three sisters’ release must clearly come as a huge relief for their family and loved ones, the fact of the matter remains that their peaceful tweets have been punished with enforced disappearance. Those responsible must be brought to justice in fair trials.”
Prisoners held in secret detention under the authority of the UAE’s state security apparatus are extremely vulnerable and are at particularly high risk of torture or other ill-treatment. Enforced disappearance in itself violates the absolute ban on torture and other ill-treatment. Amnesty International has been campaigning since February for the immediate and unconditional release of the three al-Suwaidi sisters.
The organization is calling on the UAE authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience.
The three women had been peacefully campaigning online for the release of their brother, Dr Issa al-Suwaidi. He is one of 69 people, including eight in absentia, convicted after the 2013 unfair mass trial of 94 government critics and reformist activists, widely known as the “UAE 94” trial. They were convicted on the charge of establishing an organization that aimed to bring about the government’s overthrow, a charge which they all denied. The defendants included prominent lawyers, judges, academics and student leaders.
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