Seminar in Parliament Highlights Human Rights Crisis in UAE
A host of notable panellists including human rights lawyers, documentary film-makers, and researchers came together in Parliament yesterday for a timely discussion concerning the recent escalation of human rights violations in the United Arab Emirates.
The seminar, chaired by Carl Buckley, the Director of Guernica37 International Justice Chambers, was jointly hosted by the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE), and the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR). The seminar, titled 'The United Arab Emirates: Human Rights in Crisis', covered a range of interrelated topics and issues that shed clarity upon recent developments in the UAE, and the implications that this holds for human rights. The event was hosted by Andy Slaughter MP, who welcomed the audience reiterating his commitment to put pressure on the UAE government to stop any human rights violations.
Speakers on the panel included, BBC producer Rosie Garthwaite, and reporter, Nawal Al Maghafi. The makers of the recently released BBC documentary 'Weapons of Mass Surveillance' discussed the ways in which the UAE authorities use monitoring and surveillance techniques to quell internal dissent and track political dissidents in the UAE. They detailed how the vague 'cybercrime law', has enabled the authorities to more effectively control and sanction online activity around social media sites, and public sphere more generally. They shed light upon how UK based BAE systems are instrumental in facilitating this, by providing the necessary technologies to the Emirati regime.
Recently elected Councillor David Haigh, former MD of Leeds United Football Club, and UAE torture durvivor, provided a very personal account of how British and foreign expats are at risk of repression in the UAE. Haigh, who was detained in Dubai for 22 months by UAE authorities on allegations of fraud, described for the audience the conditions he faced during his time in detention in the UAE. Three years on, and Haigh is still receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result his experience in the United Arab Emirates.
An overview of human rights in the UAE was provided by Drewery Dyke, an Amnesty International researcher at the Middle East and North Africa programme, in light of the upcoming Universal Periodic Review by the UN, which will take place in 2018. Sue Willman, Director of human rights law firm, Deighton Pierce Glynn, contextualised these rights violations within a legal framework. She outlined some of the practical legal avenues that could be taken to address rights violations in the UAE. Speaking alongside Sue Willman was a client of hers, Ayham Al Endari, a businessman from Syria, who was previously detained in the UAE. He described for the audience his treatment at the hands of UAE security officials, providing further demonstration that foreign nationals in the UAE risk torture and ill-treatment, alongside Emiratis.
The event came at a time of political tension and increasing number of activists being arrested for criticising the authorities. This time last week, rights organisations marked 100 days since the arbitrary detention of the internationally renowned human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor. A joint letter, signed by figures such as Noam Chomsky, Michael Mansfield QC, and Caroline Lucas MP, was issued to the UAE authorities calling for Mansoor's immediate and unconditional release. Furthermore, last week signalled the fourth anniversary of the verdict of the infamous 'UAE 94' case which saw human rights lawyers, academics, and students detained in the Emirates for signing a petition calling for democratic reforms. Many of the signatories remain incarcerated today.
On both of these key issues, the British government is yet to speak out or hold the Emirati authorities to account. Instead, the current administration recently announced its intention to double bilateral trade with the UAE in the coming period. However, events such as these signal that public discourse is beginning to shift as people start to become increasingly aware of human rights violations in the UAE. It is about time that the British government took note of this, and reconsidered its 'special relationship' with the UAE in light of its increasingly cavalier attitude towards the rights of both Emirati and non-Emirati citizens with its borders.