Seminar in Parliament Encourages British Government to Review Its Relations with the UAE
On Tuesday, 25th April, the ICFUAE held a seminar in Parliament to discuss the growing economic and strategic partnerships between the UK and the UAE and the worrying human rights record of the latter. The speakers unanimously encouraged the UK government and British population to take action and put pressure on the UAE to stop its repression on dissidents and human rights defenders.
The event, titled "Human Rights in the UAE: Why Should Britain Care?", was hosted by Tom Brake MP and chaired by Joyce Hakmeh, Academic Fellow at Chatham House. Speakers included Emirati activist in exile, Ahmed Al-Nuaimi; PhD holder and lecturer at SOAS, David Wearing; and award-winning journalist, Bill Law.
The seminar was opened by Tom Brake MP, who emphasised how Brexit provides a unique opportunity to raise these topics and to place human rights on top of the government's agenda.
Joe Odell, Press Officer at the ICFUAE, gave then an introduction to the topic of the evening, discussing the latest cases of arbitrary arrests in the UAE related to charges that deny the right to freedom of expression. He explained that people in Britain "should ask themselves what kind of relationship they want with the rest of the world" and that the UK government should use its “special relationship” with the United Arab Emirates to hold the UAE authorities to account over its human rights abuses.
Ahmed Al-Nuaimi spoke about the situation of political activists and their families in the UAE, as they are subjected to enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, solitary confinement, and lack of internationally-recognised legal rights. He gave testimony of his older brother, a prisoner of conscience. Their punishment, he said, extends to their families, as they are revoked citizenship, banned from travelling, and even from being able to work. "We love our country - he said, explaining why he speaks about these topics in public - and that's why we want to see it respect human rights."
David Wearing gave a contextual background to the relationship between the UK and the UAE, dating back from the colonial era of trade links with India, which placed the Gulf in a so-called buffer zone, aimed at protecting the trade route. Since then, oil and gas, trade investments, and arms trade gained a relevant place within the current business deals. However, the current relationship is one of "asymmetrical interdependence", as Britain is the strong lead between the two countries. This gives Britain a choice: "We can choose not to support them", he emphasized.
Bill Law read a story he wrote about the recent detention of human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, arrested on March 20th for his online activism. His arrest represents the countless other human rights violations that make the UAE a "21st century police state", where Ahmed was, in his own words, "the last man standing". The situation has worsened since 2015 as activists have been imprisoned and denied their rights. Despite this, the international community has failed to condemn these violations. "We, in the West, must not be silent", he expressed.
The seminar ended with a Q&A, in which members of the audience raised the issues of women's rights and their legal oppression, the cyber crime laws that are abused to incriminate human rights activists, and different ways in which people can take action, such as lobbying politicians and campaigning.