Briton Mark Arnold sentenced to 15 years in Dubai for murder; Reprieve concerned by multiple irregularities in the investigation and trial

June 7, 2010

A Dubai court today sentenced British citizen Mark Arnold to 15 years in prison for his alleged part in the death of South African Kerry Winter.

Mark, a father of one from Stoke-on-Trent, was working in Dubai when his ex-girlfriend disappeared. Although no body was ever found, Mark was charged with pre-meditated murder – an offence which carries the death penalty. Mark has consistently protested his innocence since he was charged and imprisoned over 18 months ago.

Reprieve has serious concerns about the way in which the investigation and trial were conducted by Dubai authorities, and will be considering how best to ensure justice for Mark. In the meantime we urge the British government to make certain that Mark is treated well and to support him in every way possible.

Clive Stafford Smith, Director of Reprieve, said: 

“For a court to convict when there is no body, as happened to Mark Arnold today, is always deeply concerning. Only last week a man in China was acquitted after serving 10 years in prison for murder when the ‘victim’ walked back into the village. Mark and his family were also threatened by the authorities and Mark was forced to sign a ‘confession’ in Arabic, which was used to obtain this conviction. The serious irregularities in this investigation clearly breach international fair trials standards. We call on the British government to do all they can to seek justice for Mark.”

Marc Callcutt, Casework Lawyer at Reprieve, said: 

“When I met Mark, what struck me most was that this was an ordinary guy who was doing the best that he could in very difficult circumstances. I am saddened by the sentence passed down today. I have serious concerns about the way that the police investigation was carried out, and yet this formed the basis for the court’s judgment. While I feel great sympathy for Kerry’s family, the fact remains that there is no genuine proof indicating that Mark was in any way involved with her disappearance.”

For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk 020 7427 1099/ 07931592674.

Background:

Mark Arnold, a father of one from Stoke-on-Trent, was arrested on 25 August 2008 on his return from England to Dubai. This followed the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend Kerry Winter on 20 August. No physical evidence has ever been produced to indicate that Ms Winter is dead or that Mr Arnold was in any way involved in her disappearance.

Mr Arnold has been held in prison for over 18 months while his trial was underway. Throughout the investigation and sentencing there have been serious concerns about the way that Dubai authorities have handled the case.

Some of the concerns that Reprieve has about the case are that Mark Arnold:

-was denied access to a lawyer throughout much of the police investigation -was subjected to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment -had threats made against him that his son and other family members would be arrested if he did not ‘confess’ -had his right to have the British embassy notified of his arrest denied -has had extremely limited access to a translator both during the investigation and during the trial -was threatened with torture or execution if he refused to ‘confess’ -was forced to sign a ‘confession’ in Arabic while being unaware what it stated

Unfair trial:

Mr Arnold was subjected to a number of practices that would render his trial unfair in most countries of the world. Following his arrest he was placed in a line-up in which he was the only person of European descent as well as the only person dressed in a suit. When Mr Arnold complained about this a second line-up was conducted for the same ‘witness’ who had just identified him in the first line-up. There are grave concerns that the ‘witness’ was subjected to undue pressure immediately preceding the line-up.

Despite numerous attempts from lawyers to visit Mr Arnold they were denied access until after he had been forced to sign a ‘confession’ in Arabic. Mr Arnold neither speaks nor reads Arabic and the ‘confession’ was never translated for him.

Mr Arnold’s right under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) to have the British Embassy notified of his arrest was ignored. The UAE is bound by the VCCR. If this right had been respected the British Government would have been in a position to ensure that subsequent abuses of Mr Arnold’s rights did not take place.

Mr Arnold was denied the opportunity to cross examine alleged witnesses against him in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Coerced statement:

Mr Arnold signed a statement in Arabic, a language he neither reads nor speaks. At no stage before he signed the statement was he told what it contained. Reprieve has further serious concerns about the manner in which the statement was obtained. The treatment that Mr Arnold was subjected to amounted to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.

Mr Arnold was interrogated for days at a time. During these interrogations he was denied sleep as well as access to adequate food and water. Furthermore Mr Arnold was held in abusive jail conditions putting undue pressure on him to confess.

While in custody Mr Arnold was told that if he did not confess, his son and other family members would be arrested. Mr Arnold was also driven into the desert on a number of occasions in the early hours of the morning and instructed to confess. On these occasions Mr Arnold was in extreme fear for his physical safety.

Mr Arnold was subjected to having to watch other prisoners being beaten by police, thereby creating undue influence on him to confess.

It is possible that Ms Winter is still alive:

Ms Winter disappeared from her home. There is however no evidence to suggest that she is dead, let alone that she was murdered. There are an increasing number of cases where people have been convicted of a crime only to have the ‘victim’ turn up alive and well, often many years later (most recently in China where the ‘confession’ on which the conviction was based was obtained through torture). In many cases there is circumstantial evidence to indicate that someone has died. In this case there is nothing to suggest that Ms Winter is in fact dead. Even Ms Winter’s family have stated that they feel there is a possibility that she remains alive.

Notes for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

Reprieve is a charitable company limited by guarantee; Registered Charity No. 1114900 Registered Company No. 5777831 (England) Registered Office 2-6 Cannon Street London EC4M 6YH; Chair: Lord Bingham; Patrons: Alan Bennett, Julie Christie, Martha Lane Fox, Gordon Roddick, Jon Snow, Marina Warner