Global Freedom of Expression

The Case of 94 Government Critics (U.A.E.)

Closed Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Public Assembly
  • Date of Decision
    July 2, 2013
  • Outcome
    Acquittal, Imprisonment, Criminal Sanctions
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    United Arab Emirates, Middle East and North Africa
  • Judicial Body
    Supreme (court of final appeal)
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Freedom of Association and Assembly / Protests, National Security, Political Expression

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

In Abu Dhabi on July 2, 2013, 69 out of 94 government critics were convicted by the Federal Supreme Court for a variety of charges, including “association with a group that aimed to overthrow the country’s political system.”


Many of the defendants in this trial were associated with the Reform and Social Guidance Association (al-Islah). The defendants had been critical of the Emirati government either by their association with dissenting organizations or directly in speech they had published, thus, this type of behavior allegedly violated article 180 of the Penal Code.

Additionally, there were rumors that due process and human rights standards were violated during the course of this trial. Several of the defendants did not have access to legal assistance until a couple months before the trial. Furthermore, 64 of the defendants were held at undisclosed locations before the trial. Several detainees ultimately presented allegations of torture that they had experienced while in prison.

Columbia Global Freedom of Expression could not identify official legal and government records on the case and information on the case was derived from secondary sources. It should be noted that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding this legal matter will be updated as an official source becomes available.

Decision Overview

The defendants were convicted under article 180 of the Emirati Penal Code, which states “[w]hoever establishes, founds, organizes, or administers an association, corporation, organization or any branch thereof, with the aim of overthrowing the regime of the State, or publicizing it where the use of force is noticeable, shall be punished by temporary imprisonment.”

Out of the 69 defendants who were convicted, 56 people, including human rights lawyers Mohammed al-Roken and Moahammed al-Mansoori, were sentenced to 10 years in prison. Eight defendants, who were sentenced in absentia, received fifteen year sentences and five other defendants received seven-year sentences. Ultimately, out of the 94 defendants, the court acquitted 25 people.


Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

This case contracts freedom of expression because it criminalizes behavior that is critical of government, which is found in article 180 of the U.A.E.’s criminal code.

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

This decision was given by the Federal Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the U.A.E.

Official Case Documents

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:

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