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Tue 13 Nov 2012 05:25 PM

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UAE wins place on UN Human Rights Council

Election comes just weeks after EU resolution criticises UAE on migrant workers, women

UAE wins place on UN Human Rights Council
Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

The UAE has won a place on the UN Human Rights Council for a three-year term starting from early 2013 just weeks after an EU report criticised the UAE over conditions for migrant workers, the status of women and the death penalty.

The UAE was elected in a secret ballot conducted by the UN General Assembly in which 21 candidate countries competed for 18 vacant seats.

The UAE received 184 votes, the second highest recorded, news agency WAM reported.

Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said: "The win crowned a series of achievements made by the UAE in its human rights record over the recent years, particularly in areas of legislations to uphold and protect fundamental freedoms and legal rights of individuals, rights of women and children and advanced regulations on rights of foreign workforce."

He added: "The UAE win of the seat for the next three years will lay on our shoulder additional onus and commitment to stay our course firmly in consistence with constitutional principles on which the UAE State is built and which place respect for human rights at the top of national priorities."

Ahmed Abdul Rahman Al Jarman, UAE Permanent Representative to the United Nations, added that the UAE government "had always updated its laws and systems to introduce adequate mechanisms to protect human rights".

The election to the UN Council comes just weeks after an EU report criticised the UAE over conditions for migrant workers, the status of women and the death penalty.

Commenting on the new EU Parliament resolution, Gargash said it threw "accusations haphazardly without substantiating facts on the ground".

He added that the EU resolution "purposely overlooks the milestones made by the UAE and endorsed by the relevant international organisations, particularly in the areas of foreign labour, comprehensive social care and women's empowerment".

The resolution expressed "severe concerns" for the well being of approximately 62 political detainees arrested this year.

It called on Emirati authorities to ensure "a fair trial and due process" for all detainees and urged UAE authorities to "respect the rule of law and ensure the fair trial of all arrested political activists".

The EU resolution also called on authorities to "guarantee that human rights defenders are able to carry out their work without fear of reprisal or retribution" and appealed for "an investigation into recent allegations of physical assault and torture of those under arrest".

In March, the UAE closed two international thinktanks promoting democracy overseas, Germany's Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the US-funded National Democratic Institute, without giving reasons.

The UAE says it has no political prisoners and says the detainees whose cases have been cited by international rights groups are Islamist militants who threaten the state.

Last month, Gargash sent a tweet criticising Britain's Guardian newspaper for an editorial in which it questioned the UAE's human rights record.