UAE's 'preventive' crackdown

Since the Arab uprisings began, the United Arab Emirates has seen little or no popular unrest – and the authorities seem determined to keep it that way by cracking down on possible sources of dissent.

In the words of Human Rights Watch, "The government is reacting to domestic criticisms by banning websites, detaining peaceful activists, and intensifying its chokehold on civil society."

On April 12, the social affairs minister dissolved the elected board of the Jurist Association and replaced them with government appointees. This was done under a law (of a kind which a lot of the other Arab countries also possess) restricting the activities of civil society organisations.

The Jurist Association is a prominent and long-established body in the UAE, set up in 1980 to promote the rule of law and raise standards in the legal profession. 

The dismissal of its board came just a few days after it signed a petition, along with three other NGOs, calling for political reform.

On Monday, it was the turn of the Teachers' Association – one of the other organisations that had signed the petition. Again, the social affairs minister dismissed its board and replaced them with government appointees.

There have also been a number of arrests of individual activists. On April 25, the attorney general announced that five people had been taken into "preventive custody" for misbehaviour that included "opposing the government system, and insulting the President, the Vice-President and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi". 

The five are: Ahmed Mansoor, a blogger and rights activist who was arrested on April 8; Nasser bin Ghaith, an economics lecturer who had criticised the UAE authorities for failing to make significant political reforms, and three other online activists – Fahad Salim Dalk, Hassan Ali al-Khamis, and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq.

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Posted by Brian Whitaker, 3 May 2011.