UK MPs Visit UAE to Strengthen Relations Despite Human Rights Abuses
A UK delegation of 7 MPs is currently visiting the UAE on a 5-day trip aimed at strengthening the relations between the two countries. The visit comes after a serious increase in the suppression of free speech in the UAE in the last month, as prominent academics and human rights defenders were arbitrarily detained and sentenced for their critical tweets.
The delegation, led by Rt. Hon Alistair Burt MP, Chairman of the UAE All Party Parliamentary Group in the UK, comprises of 7 unnamed MPs from the Conservative, Labour, and Scottish National Parties, as well as the UAE Ambassador to the UK, Sulaiman Hamed Al Mazrouei. The Emirates News Agency WAM reported yesterday that the group will visit Dubai and Abu Dhabi to "hold discussions with UAE Government ministers, the business community and British expatriates".
The lack of the information about the visit, which was not advertised on the official Parliament's page, leaves us to wonder in what ways the group seeks to build their relationship with the UAE without consideration for human rights abuses. In the last month, the UAE authorities have come under open condemnation by UN experts, EU Parliament groups, and international human rights organisations for the arbitrary arrest and sentences of prominent human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, winner of the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. Ahmed Mansoor was arbitrarily arrested on 20 March 2017 for his active online presence when discussing human rights violations in the country. His arrest preceded the sentence of Nasser bin Ghait, academic and economist, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail for his critical tweets about the UAE foreign policy and that of other Gulf countries.
Their cases are the last in a series of abuses against the internationally recognised right to freedom of expression. The UAE authorities have used vague cybercrime laws to detain anybody who criticises the government or its allies online. In the last year alone, 300 people were reportedly arrested for their Facebook or Twitter posts alone.
Just a few days ago, UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, met with the UAE Ambassador to the UK, Suleiman Hamed Saled Al Mazrouei to discuss mutual co-operation. According to a press release by the UAE Embassy, Fox announced that post-Brexit Britain is looking to rapidly increase the amount of investment with the UAE, from a current trade exchange of GBP 14 billion to around GBP 25 billion in 2020.
The current financial and strategic interests that the UK holds in the UAE leaves us to question their commitment to ethical standards, including human rights. We call on the government to clarify its ambiguous position towards human rights violations in the UAE and publicly condemn the suppression of freedom of expression by the UAE authorities.
1. WAM press release: http://www.wam.org.ae/fr/details/1395302606412
2. UAE Embassy press release: http://uae-embassy.ae/Embassies/uk/news/2017/03/31/9688
3. Read more on the cases of Ahmed Mansoor: http://icfuae.org.uk/news/un-rights-experts-urge-uae-%E2%80%9Cimmediately-release-human-rights-defender-ahmed-mansoor%E2%80%9D and Nasser bin Ghait: http://icfuae.org.uk/news/dr-nasser-bin-ghaith-sentenced-10-years-prison