30 May 2017

Lawyer Mohammed al-Roken awarded human rights prize

A prominent United Arab Emirates lawyer who was sentenced to 10 years for plotting against the government whas been awarded a major human rights award.

Mohammed al-Roken was one of 69 people jailed on charges of conspiring to overthrow the government of the UAE following a mass trial criticised by rights groups. A former head of the UAE Jurists' Association, Roken, 54, was arrested in July 2012, after taking on the defence of several government opponents.

Award

Now he has been awarded the Ludovic Trarieux Award with the prize committee saying that Mr Roken had devoted two decades to defending fundamental freedoms. The annual award worth €20,000 euros recognises lawyers of any nationality who have sought to defend human rights, often at great risk to themselves. The Luxembourg-instigated European Bar Human Rights Institute, made the award, named after Trarieux, who in 1898 founded France's Human Rights League. The prize jury lamented that Roken's trial had gone ahead behind closed doors and demanded his immediate release.

Amnesty International - 'fundamental flaws'

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa deputy director criticised the proceedings and the verdicts at the time. ‘Not only do the defendants appear to have been targeted simply because of their views, but they have been convicted on bogus charges and denied the basic right to a fair trial,’ she said. ‘The only thing this trial shows is the fundamental flaws in the UAE justice system.’ According to Amnesty, the trial ‘was marred by allegations of torture which were blatantly ignored, the rights of defence were flaunted, and independent observers were banned from the court room’.