Human rights officials at the United Nations are demanding the release of five men who have been "arbitrarily detained" and allegedly tortured for over a year and a half in the United Arab Emirates.
The trial of Salim Alaradi, a businessman with dual Canadian and Libyan citizenship who was taken into custody while on vacation with his family in Dubai, and that of Kamal Ahmed al-Darrat and his son Mohamed Kamal al-Darrat, both American and Libyan citizens who live in Dubai, is slated to begin Monday in an Abu Dhabi court that is closed to the public. They are accused of funding, supporting, and cooperating with alleged terrorist organizations.
Libyan nationals Adel Rajab Beleid Nasef and Moad Mohamed al-Hashmi were also arrested by UAE state security officials in August 2014 and have been charged and tried separately.
But in a statement released on Monday, UN experts condemned the trials they say are based on forced confessions, and denounced disturbing treatment outlined in an opinion paper by the UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
According to accounts it received, the men were subjected to "severe physical and psychological torture" such as prolonged periods of sleep deprivation, in some cases 20 days in a row, waterboarding, and electric shocks administered by an electric chair. They were deprived of water to drink, placed in a cell with a toilet that wouldn't flush, and exposed to laser beam lighting that caused excruciating headaches, dizziness, hallucinations and muscle spasms. They were also beaten with a stick, threatened with guns, hung with a rope around their neck, and "some of them recounted being placed in a freezer for 45 minutes," the report alleged. Alaradi also suffered skin burns, the report said, and serious health conditions, some of which existed prior to his detention.
"We have received credible information according to which the detainees were tortured and forced to sign confessions," said Juan E. Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, in a joint statement Monday. "The suspects have been also allegedly held incommunicado in secret detention locations and in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time. This is very troubling as it reinforces the risks of being tortured or ill-treated."
Dainius Puras, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, said torture, and lack of access to proper medical care, has had a "devastating impact" the the health of most of the detainees, including the permanent loss of sight, and hearing.
"This goes against international standards and is matter of very serious concern for us."
Mónica Pinto, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, criticized the fact that the men have had "extremely" limited access to lawyers. And, in an "in an extremely concerning turn of events, Mr. Alaradi and Messrs. Al Darrat were charged under a law that had not yet entered into force at the time of their arrest, in contravention of the principle of non-retroactivity of criminal law," the experts said.
"We have also received reports according to which the sole basis for their conviction is the confessions they were forced to make under torture," they added. "International law, including the Convention against Torture ratified by the UAE, clearly prohibits the use of any evidence obtained under torture during a trial".
In its response to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which has no enforcement power, the UAE said the men have been arrested "in accordance with applicable laws" and searched on the basis of a search warrant delivered by the Public Prosecution. It also noted that the detained are "free to choose, appoint and meet with a lawyer according to the rules of procedures governing correctional institutions."
Alaradi's case received attention in Canada thanks to a public campaign to raise awareness by his teenage daughter Marwa, who lives with her family in Windsor, Ontario.
His lawyer, Paul Champ, previously told VICE News that his client was being accused of supporting the February 17th Martyrs Brigade and Libya Dawn.
"We find these charges exceedingly bizarre," Champ said last month, prior to court proceedings that were not open to the public. "First of all, Mr. Alaradi has had no connection at all with these groups. He hasn't lived in Libya in over 25 years, and in any event these organizations are not terrorist groups. They were militias who rose up against Colonel Gaddafi in the civil war, and they've been internationally recognized as legitimate groups."
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