Final hearing tomorrow for migrant worker tortured and sentenced to death in the UAE
March 29, 2015
The Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi will tomorrow give a final verdict in the case of an Indian migrant worker who was sentenced to death on the basis of a ‘confession’ extracted under torture.
Ezhur Gangadharan, a father of three who works in the UAE to support his family in Kerala, India, was arrested in 2013 in connection with the rape of a minor at the school where he worked for 32 years. Upon arrest, Mr Gangadharan was repeatedly tortured by police. He was reportedly told that if he did not confess to committing the crime, the abuse would continue. The injuries Mr Gangadharan sustained were detailed in two medical reports submitted at trial. There was no physical or DNA evidence linking Mr Gangadharan to the crime. A number of other Indian nationals were also detained in relation to the offence.
In 2014 the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi vacated Mr Gangadharan’s death sentence because the lower court had not considered his torture at the hands of police. The Supreme Court asked the lower court to reconsider his case, but it refused and eventually upheld its original decision, despite a wealth of contradictory evidence that rendered the original verdict unsafe. The use of torture is prohibited absolutely by international law, including the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and the Arab Charter on Human Rights (ACOHR), both of which the UAE is fully signed up to.
In detention, Mr Ganghadaran was denied access to a lawyer and an interpreter when being questioned by the Police and Public Prosecution. At trial, Mr Gangadharan’s lawyer was cautioned for drawing the Court’s attention to the lack of an adequate interpreter and that police officers were intimidating the defendant.
Tomorrow’s sentencing hearing in Abu Dhabi’s highest court will signal an end to Mr Gangadharan’s final appeal, after which a pardon will become the only way to prevent his execution. Mr Gangadharan is one of nearly 80 migrant workers facing the death penalty in the UAE, which has faced sharp criticism for its failure to adequately protect migrants who make up nearly 90% of the labour workforce. The hearing comes just weeks after a leading expert on migrant workers’ was denied entry to Abu Dhabi.
Maya Foa, Director of the death penalty team at Reprieve which is assisting Mr Ganghadaran, said: “It is right and entirely understandable that victims and their families seek justice, especially in a case of this nature. But scapegoating Mr Ganghadaran, a man from one of the UAE’s most vulnerable and marginalised groups of people who was tortured into giving a ‘confession’ and then subjected to a wildly unfair trial, is not justice of any sort. The Indian government should not allow this gross injustice against one of its nationals to go unchecked. It should demand an immediate investigation into Mr Ganghadaran’s torture and a halt to these unfair proceedings.”