Report by Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain describes the Gulf state as a ‘police state’ for its policy of silencing any dissent.
A US-based Gulf rights group has slammed the culture of ‘impunity’ that it says allows human rights abuses in the UAE to take place.
The report by Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) accuses the UAE of instituting an autocratic police state through the use of widespread censorship laws and its surveillance infrastructure.
According to the rights group, tactics used by Emirati authorities to stifle dissent include the censorship of critical reporting on the royal families that rule each emirate and through direct initmidation of dissidents through the use of torture and other forms of persecution.
“(The UAE government) has an extensive history of using torture against those they perceive as a threat; this ‘threat’ most commonly includes human rights defenders, political opposition, religious figures, and journalists,” ADHRB said, further accusing the authorities of punishing families of activists who are either detained or live in self-exile abroad.
“The UAE’s police state not only punishes those who peacefully dissent, but harasses and abuses even those related to them, with their intolerance for criticism reaching comical proportions.”
Human rights groups have long criticised Abu Dhabi for its absolute intolerance of dissent from both local and foreign activists.
Residents and citizens alike have been persecuted for religious activities and human rights activism.
Last month reports emerged that the country was detaining several prisoners of conscience even after they had served their sentences.
The International Campaign for Freedom in the United Arab Emirates (ICFUAE) said the continued imprisonment of Abdulla Al Hajri, Omran Al Harethy, Mahmoud Al Hoseny and Mansour Al Ahmady was particularly concerning given the global coronavirus pandemic.
Other prominent prisoners include Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor, a Martin Ennals award winning campaigner who was jailed for defending another activist. Mansoor has been held since March 2017.
No international protest
Westerners are not immune from the reach of the Emirati security apparatus. British researcher Matthew Hedges said he was lured to Dubai in 2014 and thrown into prison on accusations of espionage.
During his imprisonment, Hedges said he did not receive adequate diplomatic help and suffered from abuses including rape and beatings.
Of the British government response to his ordeal, Hedges said: “There was no attempt to protest about the disregard of all basic judicial principles.”
ADHRB blames the lack of condemnation and diplomatic pressure on the UAE to rein in its abuses on the strong economic and military ties between Western states and Abu Dhabi. It accuses the UAE of acting with a sense of impunity, knowing its partners in the West will not want to risk their lucrative commercial ties.
In 2019, the UAE was the top export market for the US and more than 1,000 US firms operate in the Gulf state, lured by its favourable tax conditions and strategic location between Middle Eastern and South Asian markets.
The UAE’s sovereign wealth funds are also major investors in a number of Western states with an estimated value at around $589 billion to $773 billion. Investments are as diverse as shares in IBM to stakes in London housing projects.
ADHRB argues that Western powers must put aside financial considerations in favour of ethical ones.
“If there is any hope of change, the country (UAE) and its leaders must be held accountable for the atrocities they have caused.”