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News > World

UN Reports 'Growing Concerns' Over UAE Human Rights Record

  • Bangladeshi migrant workers in Qatar’s Industrial Area.

    Bangladeshi migrant workers in Qatar’s Industrial Area. | Photo: Reuters

Published 11 January 2018

A U.N. report criticizes "tightening censorship" and vague anti-terrorism laws that carry death penalty but omits human rights violations abroad.   

A U.N. report published Wednesday raises concerns on the United Arab Emirates' detention and prosecution of activists and a 2014 counter-terrorism law that provides for the death penalty for people found to "undermine national unity or social peace."  

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The document, published by he U.N. Human Rights Office, raises concerns over the prosecution of human rights activists "for allegations mainly related to a person's right to express his opinion," citing two cases in which a journalist and a social media user were sentenced to three years in prison over Facebook and Twitter posts.  

The report also stresses an increased possibility in arbitrary detentions due to the 2014 counter-terrorism law, namely because neither of the offenses punishable with the death sentence are defined by UAE's law. Furthermore, the law targets anyone over the age of 16 in a clear violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The report, to be presented in a United Nations procedure called the Universal Periodic Review, also notes some progress on the prevention of human trafficking, child prostitution and pornography, and migrant worker's regulation. However it fails to mention the UAE's violations of human rights abroad, namely in Yemen, where it is part of the Saudi-led war that has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced more than 3 million.

The UAE has provided both air and ground support for the coalition which has been accused of war crimes amid targeting of civilians in schools, local markets, wedding parties and even hospitals.

The small country has also been accused of carrying out widespread torture. In June a detailed investigation by the Associated Press showed that the UAE carried out human rights violations through the establishment of 18 secret prisons in "liberated" provinces, notably Aden and Mukalla.

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The oil-rich country, one of the U.S. key allies in the Middle East, has over its short existence used the money it generates from oil exports to build what is seen by many as an ultra-modern nation in appearance but one that lacks the substance of any meaningful core values on democracy, human rights or accountability.

Reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch over the past few years have shown that Abu Dhabi has been quietly deporting Syrian and Palestinian nationals who have lived and worked in the country for decades for what authorities call "national security" reasons without further explanation, in what is seen as a political persecution.

The groups have also repeatdly highlighted how detainees, including foreign nationals, are subjected to enforced disappearance, holding them for months in secret and unacknowledged detention for interrogation. Upon release, many reported that they had been tortured and otherwise ill-treated by UAE officers.

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