The UAE are rounding up political exiles
The United Arab Emirates has come under scrutiny from human rights activists, NGOs and the United Nations for a number of reasons, but their latest action is perhaps one of the most frightening. There have been calls for the United Nations to investigate the UAE following the disappearance of Abdulrahman Khalifah bin Subaih.
Abdulrahman bin Subaih came to the attention of authorities in the UAE after his involvement in the signing of a petition which called for elections in the country and an independent judiciary. The authorities took exception to the petition and began to round up those involved, bin Subaih was forced to flea the country. Eventually ending up in Indonesia, bin Subaih was applying for asylum in the country. However, his application ran into problems when the Indonesians collaborated with the Emiratis to detain and return him to the UAE. On December 18 2015, the Indonesian security forces allowed the UAE authorities to detain bin Subaih and then return him back to the Gulf state.
Rather than granting bin Subaih political asylum in Indonesia Emirati authorities were able to forcible detain him and take him back to the UAE. What many people don't realise is that this practise of enforced disappearance in the UAE has become somewhat commonplace - in 2015 3 sisters were disappeared, a prominent economist Dr Nasser bin Ghaith was taken and many more activists and human rights defenders are in prison.
But the shocking fact in the case of bin Subaih has been the international collaboration. Whilst the UN have condemned the UAE for this practise and other international parties such as the UK have said they have raised concerns about human rights abuses, Indonesia not only turned a blind eye, but in fact took an active role in helping the UAE commit an international crime, as the UN have called enforced disappearances.
Seeking the help of a third party country, bin Subaih hoped he was heading towards some semblance of safety, however the country he thought would deliver this did in fact turn its back on him and instead helped ensure that he was handed back to those who pose him most danger. The question exiles will be asking themselves now – is if this can happen to bin Subaih in Indonesia what hopes are there for other exiles and where can they go now?
It has been reported that more than 200 complaints of torture have been brought before the UAE courts. Despite this, not one of these complaints have been investigated. These complaints of torture and ill-treatment mean that bin Subaih is likely to face this treatment since his return to prison in the UAE.
Since his return to the UAE, bin Subaih has had no access to his family and hasn't been brought before the courts. The Emirati authorities campaign of disappearing people has meant that activists and their families live in constant fear in the UAE. In this case, those exiles who have left the UAE are now facing that same fear. With bin Subaih still disappeared more than a month later there is real concern for his safety.
If Abdulrahman is found to have been tortured or faced ill-treatment in the UAE prison system, sadly it won't be a surprise to many in the international community including the UN, but in this case the Indonesia authorities will also be liable for his ill-treatment.