The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has claimed the UAE is fast becoming a “police state”, following the detention of 51 activists since the beginning of May.

The Ireland-registered GCHR has expressed concern over the well-being of the activists, a number of whom it claims have begun a hunger strike “protesting their arbitrary arrest and illegal detention”.

In a statement issued on the organisation’s website, GCHR claims the detention of the activists, whose numbers are said to include high-profile human rights lawyers Mohammed al-Mansoori and Mohammed al-Roken, contravenes UAE law, which states that detainees can only be held for 21 days without charge.

 “The GCHR expresses serious concern at the arrests of the human rights defenders in the UAE,” says the statement. “The GCHR believes that the allegations made against the human rights defenders are being used as a tool to silence them and to impede their legitimate and peaceful human rights work and the exercise of their right to freedom of expression.” 

UAE authorities have clamped down on dissent in the wake of the Arab uprisings that have swept the Middle East in the past 18 months.

While security officials have declined to reveal the identity of those who have been detained, Dubai police chief Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan has repeatedly asserted the activists have links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which he claims is conspiring to undermine the political status quo in the Gulf.

The GCHR is an independent body that investigates reported human rights violations in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Yemen.