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ICFUAE | International Campaign For Freedom in the UAE

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UAE Minister for Tolerance Accused of Sexual Assault by Hay Festival Abu Dhabi Curator 

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UAE Minister for Tolerance Accused of Sexual Assault by Hay Festival Abu Dhabi Curator 

Caitlin McNamara, 32, a UK citizen, who was at the time working on the launch of the Hay Festival in Abu Dhabi, has accused a member of the Emirati royal family of sexually assaulting her. 

Ms McNamara, who has waived her right to anonymity, reported that she was attacked by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, 69, the minister of tolerance in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to the Sunday Times.

Ms McNamara said that Sheikh Nahyan formally invited her to what she thought was a work meeting to discuss the imprisoned Emirati human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor. Instead, the Sheikh took her to a villa on a small island, which she believes to have been part of Abu Dhabi's Al Gurm Resort, where he brutally assaulted her. 

"It was creepy. He was on the sofa next to me and began touching my arm and feet and I was pulling away, then he got forceful... Suddenly, it clicked why I was there," she told the Sunday Times. 

Ms McNamara said she felt scared. "I was alone on this island in a concrete building with this powerful man in a country where every day you hear stories about people disappeared in the desert."

In an open letter co-launched by ICFUAE ahead of the Hay Festival Abu Dhabi, over 40 NGOs and authors, including Stephen Fry and Noam Chomsky, had condemned free speech violations in the UAE, pointing out that the country’s support for the event was at complete odds with its human rights record. The letter called for the release of prisoners of conscience including Ahmed Mansoor, a well-known poet, sentenced to 10 years in prison for social media posts “insulting the status and prestige of the UAE”.

The day before Nahyan’s call Ms McNamara and Peter Florence, head of the Hay Festival, had spoken with senior Emirati officials. They raised the case of Ahmed Mansoor. It was an intervention that discomforted even Hay’s own PR company, Brunswick Arts, the Sunday Times writes. 

Ms McNamara’s lawyer will examine whether they could prosecute Nahyan in the UK under universal jurisdiction, which means that human rights abuses committed abroad can be tried in the UK.

ICFUAE statement:

ICFUAE calls on UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, to hold the UAE to account for this heinous assault. Too many such acts have gone unpunished in the UAE where a culture of impunity surrounds all members of the powerful royal family. In July, the Foreign Secretary introduced with much fanfare the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020. Now, it is time the UK government put words into action.

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