A consortium of 15 civil society organizations on Tuesday published a joint statement against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) new law on cybercrime to “seriously threaten[ing] and unduly restrict[ing] the right to freedom of expression (online and offline) and the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly” in the country.
The new law was adopted by Federal Decree-Law No. 34 of 2021 which entered into force on January 2, 2022, replacing the old Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 on Combating Cybercrime. Like its predecessor, the new law criminalizes acts that are otherwise protected under international law, such as calling for a peaceful assembly without obtaining official approval. However, it also implements greater restrictions against civic space and free speech.
The letter says the wording of the law creates ambiguity conducive to authoritarian abuse, particularly regarding “national security” issues that give authorities “excessive discretion to criminalize and impose lengthy prison sentences. to individuals exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.The wording of these various provisions is so broad that they can be used to target journalists, whistleblowers, activists and peaceful critics who strive to shed light on the human rights abuses occurring in the United Arab Emirates.
The letter also observed that the new law imposes a total ban on all forms of political opposition in the UAE by imposing harsher penalties such as imprisonment or life imprisonment if the existence of the state is challenged. or if the interests of the State are harmed. The law provides no maximum or minimum prison term for acts that may be considered against the state, which violates Section 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The organizations called on the UAE administration to repeal the law or significantly amend it so that it complies with international human rights standards and laws.