Final sentencing for migrant worker tortured into false ‘confession’, facing death in Abu Dhabi

September 4, 2015

Image of hands on wire

The Abu Dhabi Supreme Court will on Sunday decide whether to dismiss the death sentence given to an Indian migrant worker – tortured into giving a false ‘confession’ – on the basis of an expert review of evidence submitted at trial.

Ezur Gangadharan – a father of three, who has worked in Abu Dhabi as a janitor to support his family in Kerala, India – was arrested in 2013 in connection with the rape of a minor at the school he has worked in for over 30 years. Upon arrest, Mr Gangadharan was repeatedly tortured by police, which included severe beatings and being made to stand in stress positions while handcuffed. He was reportedly told that if he did not confess to committing the crime, the abuse would continue. There is evidence of Mr Gangadharan’s innocence – despite extensive forensic testing having been conducted, no evidence was found linking him to the crime.

A court-appointed panel, comprised of some of the UAE’s top forensic experts, will deliver their report to the Supreme Court, after concerns were raised that evidence which would normally have led to an acquittal had been ignored by the lower courts. This included DNA and forensic evidence that could exonerate Mr Gangadharan and was overlooked by the lower courts when sentencing him to death.

The medical evidence included two reports detailing the injuries sustained by Mr Gangadharan upon arrest and in Emirati custody. Although these reports were submitted to the courts previously as evidence, it was ignored, and no investigation was initiated by the UAE authorities into Mr Gangadharan’s abuse.

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 Gangadharan was denied access to a lawyer and an interpreter when being questioned by the Police and Public Prosecution.

The decision comes two weeks after India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the UAE – the first such visit by an Indian premier in 35 years. Prime Minister Modi was asked to intervene in Mr Gangadharan’s case by his family.  Mr Gangadharan is one of nearly 80 migrant workers facing the death penalty in the UAE.