The UAE has hit out at US criticism of its human rights record and said it was “disappointed” a new State Department report did not take into account advances it had made last year in terms of torture of prisoners and women’s rights.
“The United Arab Emirates was disappointed by the US State Department’s 2012 Report on Human Rights Practices in the UAE. The report provides an unbalanced picture of the human rights situation in the UAE and fails to give adequate recognition to the significant progress that has been made to promote and protect human rights in the country,” Abdul Raheem Al-Awadhi, Assistant Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs, said in a statement to the WAM news agency.
The US State Department report, issued on April 19, said the UAE’s “three most significant human rights problems were arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, and lengthy pre-trial detentions.” It also highlighted reports of police and prison guard brutality.
In response, Al-Awadhi said “the report does not mention some of the important steps that the UAE has taken in 2012 to further the protection of human rights. For example, when discussing torture, the report makes no mention of the fact that the UAE acceded to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in July 2012.
“When discussing discrimination against women, it makes no mention of the fact that in December 2012 the UAE’s Cabinet made it compulsory for corporations and government agencies to include women on their boards of directors, or of the prominent role of women in UAE politics, including four female Ministers in the Federal Cabinet," Al-Awadhi added.
Despite its criticisms, the US report did praise the UAE for some advances it had made last year.
“The government continued to interfere with citizens’ privacy rights, and placed some limits on freedom of movement," it said.
"Although there were limited reports of corruption, the government lacked transparency and there was a lack of judicial independence. “Domestic abuse and violence against women remained problems; however, police and social workers began to address the problems in close coordination,” it added.
The comments came as three Britons were sentenced to four years in jail on drugs charges in Dubai on Monday, a day after the British prime minister David Cameron expressed concern about allegations that they had been tortured.
Grant Cameron, Karl Williams and Suneet Jeerh were arrested in July 2012 during a holiday in the United Arab Emirates. Police said they had found a form of synthetic cannabis in their hire car.
All three men pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of illegal drugs and said police had subjected them to beatings and threatened them with guns - allegations the police deny.
British premier Cameron commented on the case on Sunday, before a visit by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan who is due to arrive in Britain on Tuesday.
"We continue to press for evidence of a full, impartial and independent investigation," Cameron wrote in a letter to Reprieve, a London-based legal charity which campaigns for prisoner rights.
Sheikh Khalifa is currently on a two-day visit to Britain, where he will be hosted by Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle, hold a meeting with Cameron, and have tea with the Prince of Wales.