UAE not "Apologetic" about Human Rights Violations in midst of Gulf Crisis, says Emirati Foreign Minister
In a presentation given at Chatham House headquarters in London this morning, The Emirati Foreign Minister reaffirmed the UAE's position in the current Gulf crisis, accusing Qatar of deliberately destabilising the Middle East whilst remaining 'unapologetic' in the face of accusations levelled against the Emirati regime regarding human rights violations since the onset of the crisis.
This comes after the United Arab Emirates, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and other Arab nations recently severed ties with Qatar, cutting off land sea and air access after accusing the energy-rich Gulf nation of supporting terror groups, charges denied by Qatar.
In a defiant tone, the Minister of State for Foreign affairs in the UAE, Dr. Anwar Bin Mohammed Garash refused to back down from the UAE's position in the Gulf dispute, asserting that Qatar 'cannot be friends with us, and a friend of Al Qaeda'. He stated that since 1995 Qatar had been a 'rebel looking for a cause', and is today instrumental in the destabilisation of the Middle East from Egypt to Yemen through its state support for international terror networks.
Reiterating a key demand from the UAE and its partners in the dispute that the Aljazeera network be shut down, the UAE Foreign Minister was unrelenting, stating that the Qatari owned station has long been used as a platform for jihadism and terrorism in the region. Responding to criticism from the UN that this demand constitutes a violation of freedom of speech and human rights, Dr. Anwar Bin Mohammed Garash pointed to the contradiction between the internal suppression of freedom of speech within Qatar on the one hand, and its attempt to externally promote it through Aljazeera on the other.
This comments come in-spite of the fact that the UAE themselves have come under heavy condemnation from UN human rights officials and groups such as Amnesty International for rights violations since the onset of the crisis. A key criticism from such groups has revolved around the Emirati authorities placing further restrictions on freedom of speech within the UAE by outlawing any expressions of 'sympathy' with Qatar with a threat of a 15 year jail sentence. Emirati citizen, Ganem Abdullah Mattar, has recently been detained on such charges after posting a series of videos on social media calling for a resolution to the current dispute between the two nations. His current whereabouts remains unknown. When questioned directly on this today, the Emirati foreign minister said simply that the UAE 'will not be apologetic' about securing its state and ensuring 'stability' within its borders.
This is not a isolated incident, the UAE are known to regularly restrict freedom of speech and violate the basic rights of their citizens. In 2016 alone, around 300 people were detained under the vague cybercrime law for posting social media comments that ran counter to the dominant opinions of the state. In recent years, Amnesty International has repeatedly reported enforced disappearances, unfair trails, torture and other ill-treatment of detainees in the UAE.
Rights organisations and campaigners will no doubt be disappointed that pertinent issues regarding human rights were not addressed in any substantive form by Dr. Anwar Bin Mohammed Garash this morning. The failure of the Foreign Minister to address these issues further demonstrates that from the perspective of the Emirati authorities, the basic rights of those within its borders come secondary to the wider regional ambitions of the regime.