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Human Rights Watch: UAE commits torture in Yemen

January 22, 2018 at 9:15 am

People search for survivors after airstrikes carried by the Saudi-led coalition over Arhab District of Sanaa, Yemen on 23 August 2017 [Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency]

In its 2018 World Report Human Rights Watch confirmed that “the UAE committed violations inside and outside the country in 2017. It arrested one of the most outspoken critics in the country and played a role in torturing and forcibly causing people to disappear in Yemen”.

In its most recent report the organisation mentioned that “In March, the UAE detained Ahmed Mansoor, an award-winning human rights defender, who spent years defending and speaking on behalf of arbitrarily detained people by the UAE or detained in routinely repressive operations against the opposition. Mansoor is facing speech-related charges that include using social media websites to publish false information that harms national unity”.

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, said that “The government and its many public relations companies are trying to portray the UAE as a modern state which is on its way towards reformation. This magical image will remain imaginary as long as the UAE is still refusing to release the unfairly detained activists, journalists and critics such as Ahmed Mansoor”.

In the 643-page World Report, in its 28th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries.

The organisation pointed out that “The UAE has a leading role in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen”. It documented 87 apparently unlawful coalition attacks and some likely war crimes that have killed nearly 1,000 civilians since March 2015. Coalition members have provided insufficient information about the role their forces are playing in the campaign to determine which party is responsible for illegal attacks.

Read: Southern Yemen separatists want Saudi-backed government overthrown

Abu Dhabi “has also been involved in attacks in Yemen, including those that were committed through the support of offensive Yemeni forces carrying out security crackdowns in southern Yemen. The UAE runs at least two informal detention facilities in Yemen. Its officials appear to have ordered the continued detention of people despite release orders, forcibly detaining people, and reportedly moved high-profile detainees outside the country,” according to Human Rights Watch researchers.

In the same context the organisation further stated that “Former detainees and family members reported abuse or torture inside facilities run by the UAE and UAE-backed forces. Yemeni activists who have criticised these abuses have been threatened, harassed, detained, and forced to disappear. The United States is working closely with the UAE in Yemen”.

“The more the United States and others praise the UAE for its decisive support in fighting terrorism in places like Yemen, the more this covers a darker reality of forced disappearance, torture and mistreatment of detainees, and confirms their potential complicity in these abuses,” Whitson said.

Labour abuses persist. Migrant construction workers face serious exploitation. On September 2017 Abu Dhabi introduced for the first time a domestic workers law on the rights of female migrant workers. However, some provisions are weaker than those accorded to other workers under the labour law, according to Human Rights Watch.

The organisation added that: “The UAE exercises discrimination against gender, gender identity and sexual orientation. In August the UAE sentenced two Singaporean nationals who had been arrested in an Abu Dhabi shopping mall to one year in prison ‘for attempting to resemble women’. An appeals court converted their sentence to a fine and deportation.”