UAE and Human Rights Concerns
About two weeks ago, a number of international human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch and European Centre for Democracy and human Rights expressed "deep concern" over the candidacy of Major General Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi, the General Inspector of the UAE Interior Ministry, as head of the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol). The NGOs said that the appointment would "undermine" Interpol's reputation and mission, and have a serious impact on its ability to carry out its mission effectively and in good faith.
"Given the UAE's poor human rights record, including the systematic use of torture and ill-treatment in state security facilities, Mr Al-Raisi's appointment as president would damage Interpol's reputation and stand in great contradiction to the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the organisation's mission." They noted "Lawyers, journalists, political activists and human rights defenders in the UAE have been subjected to harsh reprisals, intimidation tactics, enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention as a result of peacefully expressing their opinions, including on trumped-up 'terrorism' charges."
The UAE targets political opponents and activists, and criminalizes fundamental freedoms and basic human rights. Some critics believe that the UAE has used the ‘war on terror’ to crack down on its people for nine years. During Arab Spring and after witnessing the fall of regimes across the region, Abu Dhabi responded by conducting the largest crackdown in Emirati history — arresting, jailing, banning, and exiling practically all involved parties. After the crackdown, the monarchical regime framed the incident as a state initiative to quell violent extremism and to prevent terrorism from infiltrating its borders.
The episode illustrates how the UAE has managed to frame its suppression of domestic dissent and its interventionist military campaigns as counterterrorism initiatives, feeding the international community a distorted image of its participation in the so-called “war on terror.”
Despite Abu Dhabi’s increasingly politically repressive behavior, the United States continues to provide a broad range of security and political support to the UAE, demonstrating an inherent support of its actions.
The UAE’s perception of political dissent as a threat to the regime strongly influences its national security agenda. Criticism of the regime stems from a range of domestic democratic voices and academics, and human rights advocates around the world.
The United States’ emphasis on the “war on terror” enabled a convenient justification for Abu Dhabi to pursue domestic political repression. Citizens have privately accused the government of monitoring private communications and organizations under the guise of state protection from terrorism. International human rights defenders have documented unethical detention and corrupt court practices, some of which have landed political figures in prison for decades. Yet, there has been little outrage from the United States because the UAE claims to abide by the U.S. national security priority of “defeating” violent extremism.
Critics have noted that Emirati military campaigns to ostensibly counter extremist groups have resulted in serious human rights violations and war crimes.
Yet again, as long as Abu Dhabi cites counterterrorism as its objective, they can indiscriminately conduct warfare with little U.S. objection. As the Emirates progressively become more involved in regional and global initiatives, it reinforces its security alliance with Washington.
Less than one month ago, the head of the US International Development Finance Corporation, Adam Boehler, announced that “the United States, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates are proud to announce the establishment of the Abraham Fund.” They are to set up a $3 billion investment fund to promote private investment in Israel, the West Bank and elsewhere in West Asia and North Africa. This move, too, condemned by some human rights actors. "The UAE government should refrain from and immediately halt any deals with Israel that may contribute to or embolden human rights violations against the Palestinians," the rights group said.