ICFUAE Deliver Statement at the UN Universal Periodic Review Pre Session
Last week ICFUAE participated in the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Pre Session for the United Arab Emirates.
Introduced by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006, the UPR involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all UN member states and takes place every four years. The pre-session is a space in which civil society groups can advocate directly to state delegations ahead of the UPR session, which in the UAE's case will be in January 2018.
Statelessness, attacks and imprisonment of human rights defenders, torture, curtailments of freedom on speech, and migrants rights were just some of the issues raised in the hour long session at the UN Headquarters in Geneva.
In recognition of the fact that there were no Emirati groups present on the panel, ICFUAE opened their address by reminding the various missions that “there appears to be no independent civil society active inside the UAE, so victims report violations to international organisations such as ourselves".
ICFUAE raised issues of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances in the UAE, reminding the session that between 2013 to 2017, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) declared 100 arrests arbitrary and during the same period 37 actions were sent to the UAE by the Working Group of Enforced Disappearances (WGED), and that there had been "countless" more cases raised by human rights organisations in recent years.
The statement paid particular attention to the detention of foreign nationals in the UAE, raising the case of the former MD of Leeds Utd FC David Haigh, who was detained in the UAE between 2012 to 2014. During this period, Haigh was denied legal counsel, tortured and sexually assaulted on numerous occasions.
In these regards, the ICFUAE gave recommendations to Emirati authorities calling for a legislative ban on arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances and for the UAE to ratify the international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and allow international organisations to monitor and investigate cases of torture.
As well as this, the ICFUAE drew attention to the pressing issue of statelessness, noting that since 2012, the UAE have sought to redress issues of statelessness though an investment deal with the Union of Comoros in exchange for 'economic citizenship' for stateless Emirati residents. ICFUAE argued that this has only entrenched stateless people's insecurity in the UAE, with Comoros passport holders in the UAE being restricted access to basic services and liable to deportation. In its recommendations, ICFUAE called on the Emirati authorities to end its discrimination against stateless persons in the UAE by granting long term stateless residents Emirati citizenship.
Other issues raised at the session included, prisoners rights, torture, migrant workers rights, and access to healthcare.
Geneva based NGO, Al-Karama drew attention to the fact that in recent years, the UAE have refused to engage with UN mechanisms. The UAE have refused numerous requests from UN special rapporteurs to visit the UAE to monitor issues such as arbitrary detention and torture. Moreover, in spite of the fact that the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances (WDEG) have documented numerous cases of enforced disappearances and called on the Emirati authorities to reveal the location of those concerned, the UAE refuse to comply.
At the end of the panel's statements, the floor was opened up for questions. The delegate from the UAE took the opportunity to speak, but instead of addressing the issues raised by the panel, began a long address in which he began comparing the UAE to other countries,. When asked by the Chair to respond to the issues raised by the panel, he abruptly stormed out of the session lambasting it “a waste of time”.
The dismissive response by the UAE's UN delegate to allegations of human rights violations is symptomatic of the UAE authorities' increasingly cavalier attitude towards the basic rights of those within its borders. As demonstrated at today's session in Geneva, the past five years have seen an increase in practices of arbitrary detention, torture, and restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly. Now is the time for the Emirati authorities to address these issues in a substantive and meaningful manner, rather than dismiss in haste as they have done today. It is imperative that in the coming period, the UAE government take the appropriate steps to bring legislative, civil and political processes in line with international human rights legislation.