September 20, 2011

Attorney Jennie Pasquarella of the ACLU of Southern California will represent four international human rights organizations as an observer in the trial of five men arrested after calling for democratic reforms in the United Arab Emirates.

Pasquarella will serve as an international observer for Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), and Front Line Defenders, together with Samer Muscati of Human Rights Watch.   The “UAE 5” are facing significant prison sentences in Abu Dhabi.  Their trial will take place on September 26, 2011, before Abu Dhabi’s Federal Supreme Court.

As an observer, Pasquarella will help determine if the men are receiving a fair and just trial in accordance with international and UAE law.  Ahmed Mansoor, Nasser bin Gaith, Fahid Salim Dalk, Hassan Ali Khamis and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq are bloggers and lecturers who were arrested for “publicly insulting” the president of the UAE and other government officials, which is prohibited under UAE law.  The organizations say the men should not be punished for peacefully speaking out against the government.

“No matter where in the world you sit, the freedom to express one’s own opinions is a universal and fundamental right,” said Pasquarella. “Government repression of political speech is not unique to the UAE; you can find examples much closer to home.  Just look to Orange County, where eleven UC Irvine students await jury verdicts on charges related to disruption of a speech by the Israeli Ambassador last year.  Any time a government punishes its citizens for exercising their right to speak and peacefully assemble, its actions are an assault to democracy.”  

As a staff attorney for the ACLU/SC, Pasquarella, together with Ahilan Arulanantham, ACLU/SC Deputy Legal Director, represented Naji Hamdan, a Lebanese-American man who was detained in the UAE and, after being tortured for 3 months, was put on trial before the Abu Dhabi Federal Supreme Court in the UAE.