Pope Francis urged to raise human rights issues during his visit to UAE
Prominent international watchdogs have called on Pope Francis to raise human rights issues during his forthcoming visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International urged the Pope to publicly call out the UAE government's poor human rights record.
In an open letter, HRW outlined its concerns over the UAE's part in the Saudi-led coalition's military operations in Yemen, and the Emirati government's sustained assault on freedom of expression and association at home.
"Despite its assertions about tolerance, the UAE government has demonstrated no real interest in improving its human rights record ... But the UAE has shown how sensitive it is to its image on the global stage, and Pope Francis should use his visit to press UAE leaders to meet their human rights obligations at home and abroad," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa Director at HRW, said.
In a seperate statement, Amnesty International called on Pope Francis to raise the cases of jailed human rights defenders.
"The UAE authorities are trying to brand 2019 as the 'year of tolerance' and are now seeking to cast the Pope's visit as proof of their respect for diversity. Does this mean they are ready to reverse their policy of systematic repression of any form of dissent or criticism?" said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Middle East Research Director.
"Since 2011, the authorities have systematically cracked down on their critics, including activists, judges, lawyers, academics, students and journalists by way of arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearance, torture and other-ill-treatment".