U.N. expert calls for probe of 'torture' in UAE prisons
U.N. expert calls for probe of 'torture' in UAE prisons

A U.N expert urged today an independent probe into allegations of torture in United Arab Emirates prisons, which she was not allowed to visit during a fact-finding mission.

Gabriela Knaul, the U.N Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, also criticised "violations" and a "lack of transparency" in court proceedings in the Gulf country, where dozens of Islamists have been rounded up.

In her preliminary report on a nine-day visit, Knaul urged the UAE to "establish an independent committee to investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment in detention."

She told a press conference she had received "credible information and evidence" that detainees are arrested without warrant, blindfolded, taken to unknown places and held incommunicado, sometimes for months.

She said she also had evidence of detainees being "tortured and/or subjected to ill-treatment" including by being put in "electric chairs".

She said she was not allowed to visit prisons or meet with certain detainees, adding that "on one occasion, I was followed".

The UAE has not seen any of the widespread protests that have swept other Arab states since 2011. However, authorities have cracked down hard on dissent and calls for democratic reform, drawing criticism from international rights groups.

The top UAE security court last month jailed a group of 30 Emiratis and Egyptians accused of forming a Muslim Brotherhood cell for terms ranging from three months to five years.

The 10 UAE citizens in the group were among 69 nationals jailed in July for up to 15 years on charges of plotting to overthrow the government.

In her report, Knaul said supreme court rulings must be subject to appeal, criticising "an apparent lack of transparency during both the investigation phase and court proceedings."

"The lack of transparency is compounded when the court hearings are not public," she added.

Only selected relatives of the defendants, local journalists and representatives of human rights groups were allowed to attend the Islamists' trial.

Several rights groups, including the International Federation for Human Rights, had voiced concern that the only international legal observer mandated to attend the last session of the mass trial in July was denied access to the hearing.

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