ICFUAE statement on Matthew Hedges' pardon.
ICFUAE welcome the decision of the UAE authorities to pardon Matthew Hedges.
However, we maintain that he should never have been detained in the first instance. A pardon does not right the wrong of a grossly unfair trial or of being held for months in solitary confinement without access to legal counsel.
In reality, the Emirati authorities have been forced into this decision off the back of sustained public pressure.
So, as we celebrate Hedges’ release, let us not forget the scores of other prisoners of conscience who remain detained in the UAE, such as Ahmed Mansoor and Dr Nasser bin Ghaith; it is imperative that his case be understood within this wider climate of repression.
Matthew’s ordeal should serve as a wake-up call to the UK government on the realities of repression in the UAE. All future relations with the Gulf state must now be conditional on the Emirati regime’s adherence to international human rights legislation.
Despite pardoning Hedges, a clear message has been sent to the academic community: Academics and students are not welcome to conduct independent research in the UAE and indeed, it is not safe to do so. It has become clear in recent weeks that there is no such thing as academic freedom in the Gulf state. Therefore, there can no longer be any justification for UK universities to partner with Emirati institutions. Until the safety of students and teachers can be guaranteed, an academic boycott of the country must be upheld.