Human Rights Watch Slams UAE in Annual Report
Last year Emirati authorities continued to arbitrarily detain human rights defenders, heavily exploit its migrant workforce and commit rights violations abroad, Human Rights watch said today in its World Report 2018
The document draws significant attention to the case of the prominent human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, along with other prisoner's of conscience, that have been forcefully disappeared, arbitrarily detained and imprisoned in 2017.
In March of last year, Jordanian journalist Tayseer al-Najjar and the distinguished Emirati economist Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith were sentenced to three and ten years respectively for comments made on social media that the authorities deemed damaged the “reputation of the state”.
This was shortly followed by the enforced disappearance of Ahmed Mansoor after plain-clothed Emirati security officials stormed his home in the early hours. The award-winning rights defender has, to this day, been denied family visits or access to a lawyer. Earlier this year, UN experts labelled Mansoor's continued detention as a “direct attack” on human rights defenders everywhere.
Commenting on these developments, the Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitson, said:
“The government and the many public relations firms it pays try to paint the UAE as a modern, reform-oriented country..[..] This rosy vision will remain fiction so long as the UAE refuses to release the activists, journalists, and critics it has unjustly jailed, like Ahmed Mansoor.”
The report also noted the continued abuse and exploitation of the county's migrant workforce. Despite passing a domestic workers law in September 2017 which provided rights for migrant workers for the first time, the report argued that “some provisions are weaker than those provided to other workers under the country's labour law.”
On top of this, HRW asserted that the UAE continue to discriminate on the bases of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, citing the case of two Singaporean nationals sentenced to 1 year in prison for “looking feminine” whilst taking part in a photo-shoot in a Abu Dhabi shopping.
An appeals court later converted their sentence to a fine and deportation.
As well as violating the basic rights of those with its borders, the report also charged the UAE with abuses abroad, citing its involvement as a leading member of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
“Human Rights Watch has documented 87 apparently unlawful coalition attacks, some most likely war crimes, that have killed nearly 1,000 civilians since March 2015. Coalition members, including the UAE, have provided insufficient information about the role their forces are playing in the campaign to determine which country’s forces are responsible for unlawful attacks.”, HRW said.
Moreover, the report noted practices of enforced disappearances and torture carried out by Emirati forces in at least two informal detention centres in Yemen. Over the last year, there have been numerous reports of abuse and torture being carried out inside these facilities. Enforced disappearances have also become commonplace with instances of high-profile detainees being moved outside of the country by Emirati security forces. The UAE works closely with US forces in Yemen.
Sarah Whitson said of this:
“Whenever the US and others praise the UAE for its critical counterterrorism support in places like Yemen, they paper over a much darker reality – of disappearances, torture, and detainee abuse, and their own potential complicity in these abuses,”
Human Rights Watch's, World Report is produced annually and involves a review of human rights practices in more than 90 countries. You can read it here.