As Britain does deals with Emirati executives, the country is rife with allegations of torture and arbitrary detention, writes Ben Keith
Tourism and business between the UK and the United Arab Emirates, particularly Dubai, is booming as high-flying executives make deals while gazing over the dramatic vistas.
But behind the façade of showbiz finance is a state whose stock in trade is terror, torture and repression. The human rights record there is nothing short of shocking.
Repression of human rights defenders in the UAE is the norm. That means arrest, arbitrary trial, imprisonment and torture. Resistance is met with chilling speed and efficiency.
In March last year police stormed the apartment of one of the emirates’ leading human rights defenders, Ahmed Mansoor. He was arrested for “cybercrimes” and accused of publishing “false information that harms national unity and damages the country’s reputation”.
The UN, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called for his release. He has been arbitrarily detained without trial, and no lawyer in the UAE will take his case for fear of reprisals. No one has heard what has happened to him and he is detained in an unknown location. He has effectively disappeared.
Common torture methods allegedly used in the UAE include beatings, electrocution, death threats, verbal abuse and sexual abuse including rape and stress positions. During a recent UK extradition case I was involved in, we obtained information from the Foreign Office that 43 UK citizens had complained of being tortured in the UAE over five years. Of those, 19 claimed that they had been beaten.
That is just the tip of the iceberg. The UAE is a closed country: if they do not arrest and torture journalists and representatives from non-governmental organisations, then they eject them, making the abuses difficult to investigate.
The UAE is notorious for abusing the Interpol system to request extradition on spurious grounds. Often business rivals are attacked using the extradition system because the courts are easy to manipulate with enough money or influence.
David Haigh, the former director of Leeds United Football Club, claims he was lured to the UAE for a business meeting in 2014 and then detained and accused of fraud by business rivals. He says that for almost two years he was beaten and tortured.
Sadly his story is not unique. Torture is the currency of the police and court system of the UAE, where only lip service is paid to human rights. A veneer of respectability is given as immense wealth means that Western governments do not look at the reality of what happens behind closed doors, where torture and cruelty are conducted with impunity.
This article was originally published by the Times on 14 March 2018, and you can view the article here.
Ben Keith is a barrister at 5 St Andrew’s Hill in London. Today he will speak to a UN panel in Geneva on the subject of the UAE’s approach to international law and human rights
Ben specialises in Extradition, Immigration, Serious Fraud, Human Rights and Public law. Ben is ranked in Chambers and Partners as a band 1 leader in the field of Extradition at the London Bar. Ben is also ranked in the Legal 500 as a band 1 leading individual in international crime and extradition at the London Bar.