Ahmed Mansoor: UAE activist wins Martin Ennals Award

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Ahmed Mansoor (2011)Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Ahmed Mansoor said the UAE had human rights issues that PR companies tried to dismiss

An activist from the United Arab Emirates has won the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

The jury praised Ahmed Mansoor for regularly raising concerns about arbitrary detention, torture and degrading treatment in the Gulf state.

As a result, it said, he had faced repeated intimidation, harassment and death threats from the UAE authorities and their supporters.

Mr Mansoor could not collect the award in Geneva because of a travel ban.

The Martin Ennals Award is named after the late British lawyer who became the first head of the human rights organisation, Amnesty International.

'Deep issues'

Mr Mansoor was selected as one of the human rights defenders nominated for the award by a jury of 10 global human rights organisations. The other nominees were Asmaou Diallo of Guinea and Robert Sann Aung of Myanmar.

Before Tuesday's awards ceremony, the jury had said Mr Mansoor's absence would "mark a very disappointing position for the UAE, which is a country that prides itself as one of the hubs of international business and tourism in the Middle East, as well a safe haven in the region".

"As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, which is running for a second term, we expect the UAE authorities to honour their obligations to uphold human rights and protect human rights defenders," a statement said.

Mr Mansoor and four other activists who called for democratic rights in the UAE were arrested and jailed in 2011 on the charge of "insulting officials".

Although pardoned and released later that year, he was banned from travel and had his passport confiscated.

In a video message recorded for the ceremony, Mr Mansoor said: "I hope that my presence as a finalist can show people that we have deep human rights issues that PR companies and a complex network of interests try to dismiss, or at least present as contrary to the reality."

The UAE has shown little tolerance towards dissent since the 2011 Arab Spring. Dozens of people have been detained and most have been tried and convicted of planning to overthrow the government.