UAE: Laying of mass charges against political prisoners during COP28 “beggars belief”

News that during its hosting of the COP28 climate talks, the UAE laid new terrorism charges against 87 people, including the country’s most high-profile political prisoners, has been greeted with shock.

Details of the mass charges – laid on 7 December – were published today by the respected Emirates Detainees Advocacy Center (EDAC). Those included in the list of those charged included high-profile human rights defenders such as Ahmed Mansoor, Nasser bin Ghaith, and Mohammed al-Roken. Many of those charged were supposed to be released earlier this year after completing their sentences. A number of those charged were members of the UAE94, convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences in a mass unfair trial in 2023.

FairSquare co-director James Lynch, who was at COP28 in Dubai last week, said:

“This news, and its timing, beggars belief. The UAE has attempted during its COP28 presidency to persuade the world of its openness to different perspectives. It was already an absurdity that not a single Emirati critical of the government could attend the talks. The decision to lay new terrorism charges on this scale in the middle of the talks, when UAE is under the global spotlight, is a giant slap in the face to the country’s human rights community and the COP process.”

On 9 December, activists held a protest action in support of the country’s political prisoners in the UN-managed “blue zone” at COP28. Such protests are ordinarily impossible in the UAE, which purged the country of independent human rights organisations in the early 2010s.


FairSquare is a London-based human rights NGO that has a focus on authoritarianism and migrant rights in the Gulf region. 

Earlier this year FairSquare, EDAC and ALQST for Human Rights published a briefing setting the UAE’s grim human rights crackdown of the past decade in the context of the country’s social contract, which expects citizens to demonstrate absolute political quiescence in return for a share in the benefits of continued fossil fuel extraction.