By Khalid Ibrahim, Co-Director, Gulf Centre for Human Rights,

Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, said upon adoption of the EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy on 25 June 2012.

“Human rights are one of my top priorities and a silver thread that runs through everything that we do in external relations. With this comprehensive package we want to enhance the effectiveness and visibility of EU human rights policy.”

We, as human rights organizations working in the region want to see a true reflection of such a strong statement on the ties between the EU and repressive countries in the region with widely reported human rights violations. The EU needs to carry out its full responsibilities in the promotion and protection of human rights and democracy in the countries of the region, such as the UAE.

We would like to remind the European Parliament, which will vote on 27 February on the approval
of Schengen Visa waiver for UAE, of the EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy, which itself pledges to “place human rights at the centre of its relations with all third countries, including its strategic partners” and promised that the EU will “throw its full weight behind advocates of liberty, democracy, and human rights throughout the world.”

We sincerely call on the EU to turn the abovementioned very important pledges into solid actions. Inaction is not an option with the rulers of countries such as UAE. The EU should act in line with the European Parliament resolution of 1726 October 2012 on the deteriorating human rights situation in the UAE which “expressed great concern about assaults, repression and intimidation against human rights defenders, political activists and civil society actors within the United Arab Emirates who peacefully exercise their basic rights to freedom of expression, opinion, and assembly” and called on the authorities “to halt the ongoing crackdowns immediately” and “release of all prisoners of conscience and activists, including human rights defenders”

However, after more than a year, there are strong indications that the authorities in UAE are not showing willingness to address the international concerns. We witnessed in the last year a dramatic increase in the repression of human rights defenders and activists in the UAE leading to the arrest and detention of dozens of citizens including lawyers and academics. Tight restrictions on freedom of expression and association are in place compounded by the introduction of new legislation to curb the use of Internet and social media networks by human rights defenders and activists. Needless to say that the local human rights organizations are not allowed to work and the international human rights organizations in general are denied access to the country.

We would specifically like to highlight the cases of prominent human rights lawyers Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken and Dr. Mohammed Al-Mansoori, who on 2 July 2013, were sentenced by the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi, to 10 years in prison, due to their peaceful and legitimate human rights work.

Many of the so called UAE94 which includes some of the nation’s most prominent human rights lawyers, economists and even members of the ruling family, have made credible allegations that they have been tortured and held in solitary confinement for many months prior to the trial. The UAE has an international obligation under the United Nations Convention on Torture to investigate these allegations, and yet they have failed to do so.
The UAE has flouted its commitments to its own citizens in its founding constitution to progress to a democratic system. Likewise it has abandoned its commitments to the international community, set out in international conventions, to uphold the standards of a civilised nation.

We deplore that the EU has failed to the full undertaking to integrate human rights into all EU policies and actions with regard to UAE and if voted this week in favour of the Schengen Visa waiver, this easily could be regarded by the UAE rulers as a support to their massive human rights violations which are well documented by the international human rights movement.

We, urge the EU institutions and EU Member States to strongly, collectively and publicly insist that the UAE should immediately and unconditionally release all the detained human rights defenders and activists; in addition to guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in UAE are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment. 

Khalid Ibrahim
+961 70159552
Gulf Centre for Human Rights
Twitter & Skype: Khalidibrahim12