The UAE Owes Justice to Everyone it Has Mistreated
Thanks to a report by The Intercept, we now know that, in May 2013, the United Arab Emirates paid out a secret $10 million settlement to Khaled Hassen, an American businessman whom its officials had abducted and tortured while detaining him incommunicado from January 1984 to November 1985.
This means that, while I was being detained without charge after uploading a comedy video to YouTube, the UAE was paying the price for unlawfully detaining and mistreating another person. Despite being aware of the illegality of its abuses, the UAE chose to continue my unlawful detention for another eight months, releasing me only after my family and friends launched an international campaign to secure my release.
As The Intercept revealed, on Christmas Day 2013—eight months into my detention—Senator Amy Klobuchar urged UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba for my release by stating that “I continue to be shocked that he is still in jail [...] I believe your country has reached a place on the world stage where these things matter even if they were acceptable in the past.” Ambassador Al Otaiba’s response that “I assure you that’s precisely the case I am making and it does have merit” shows that UAE officials were very much aware that their actions were illegal.
And that was not the last time the UAE would admit fault. Soon after my release in January 2014—only after a show trial where judges used a false confession to find me “guilty” of “endangering the country’s national security”—UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum admitted that my mistreatment was a mistake.
So, even after settling with Hassen, the UAE continued to detain me—and several other individuals—unlawfully. The abduction and torture of American and Canadian businessmen in Dubai in 2014, for example, are fresh in memory, and there are surely still others currently enduring mistreatment in the UAE’s prisons despite having done nothing wrong. We deserve justice too.