Rights group says at least nine activists due to be freed have instead been moved to a ‘counselling’ facility in a UAE prison.
Authorities in the UAE continue to detain at least nine political prisoners despite them having served their sentences.
The London-based International Campaign for Freedom in the United Arab Emirates (ICFUAE) said the prisoners were being held in a so-called counselling section inside al Razeen prison, a desert facility around 120 kilometres from the capital, Abu Dhabi.
ICFUAE said prisoners including Osama al Najjar, Badr al Bahri, Ahmed Almolla, Faysal, Othman and Abdelwaheed Elshoh, Abdullah Elhelw, Said Elbrimy and Kalifa Rabiaa, had finished their sentences but were still being held indefinitely.
According to the rights group, the continued detention of the activists lacked any sort of judicial justification and therefore violated international standards of due process.
The UAE claims that the purpose of the ‘counselling’ facilities is to rehabilitate convicts.
Most of those imprisoned have been jailed for their activism or speaking out against the UAE’s rulers.
“These cases are yet a further indication of how the UAE authorities use counter-terrorism measures as a pretext to crackdown on peaceful human rights activism,” ICFUAE said in a statement.
“These prisoners’ continued detention exposes the UAE’s Year of Tolerance as little more than a cynical PR stunt,” it added.
Al Razeen has a reputation for abuse of prisoners, including allegations of sexual harassment of prisoners, and other forms of mistreatment.
Joe Odell of ICFUAE told TRT World there was no real justification for the UAE to continue to hold the men.
“These men have served their time, any further imprisonment plainly violates their most basic human rights,” he said.
“Instead of being returned to their families, they’re languishing in the UAE’s most notoriously repressive prison, with no end in sight,” he added.
The UAE has faced strong criticism over its silencing of civil society activists and human rights advocates.
In May, UN Human Rights experts spoke out against the continued detention of activist Ahmed Mansoor, who was jailed for tweets raising awareness of another activist’s detention.
The experts said that the conditions of Mansoor’s imprisonment, which included solitary confinement, could constitute torture.
Mansoor, a recipient of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, was convicted for “insulting the prestige of the UAE”.
He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $270,000.