US foreign policy is based around freedom and democracy, but its Middle Eastern allies, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are blatantly violating the universal human rights.
The United States shares remarkably warm ties with both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and in recent years with President Donald Trump at the helm, the relations have reached new heights.
For all these years of mutual bonhomie, the US has however conveniently ignored rampant human rights abuses carried out by both.
According to the United Nations and several rights organisations, the two countries continue with their policy of arresting and executing people without fair trials as well as committing serious crimes, including political assassinations, outside their borders.
Here are the five most glaring examples of human rights abuse and crimes against humanity Saudi Arabia and the UAE have committed in recent years.
1. Killing Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi
The prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
After months of denial, Riyadh admitted that Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate and announced an arrest warrant for 18 individuals allegedly involved in the crime.
However, a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) states: “The statements [made by Saudi authorities] appeared to be designed to insulate Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman from further scrutiny over the murder.”
Riyadh’s reluctance to be transparent in sharing information with Ankara has raised suspicion of a cover-up.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in December 2018, that the Saudi prosecutor "did not share any information or evidence with his Istanbul counterpart about the Jamal Khashoggi case because the perpetrator is obvious".
The CIA in November briefed the White House that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing.
The CIA's finding, first reported by the Washington Post, is the most definitive US assessment to date tying Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler directly to the killing.
The US Senate also accepted the resolution on December 13 that holds Crown Prince Mohammed responsible for killing Khashoggi.
However, Trump rejected to cut relations with Saudi Arabia or impose sanctions because of recently signed agreements to export arms to Riyadh worth tens of billions of dollars.
The United Nations special rapporteur made a visit to Turkey on January 28 to investigate the killing of Khashoggi in Istanbul. The findings will be reported to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2019.
2. Enabling war in Yemen
The Saudi-led coalition has killed tens of thousands of Yemeni civilians in air raids without any international repercussions and now Donald Trump has blamed a civilian massacre on the
Saudis' lack of knowledge of how to use the US-made bombs.
An air strike by the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis hit a bus driving in a busy market in northern Yemen on August 9, killing at least 51 people, including at least 40 children, and wounding 77.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said one attack hit a bus driving children in Dahyan market, in northern Saada, adding hospitals there had received dozens of dead and wounded.
Saudi Arabia has been recruiting children from desperate families in a war-torn African nation to pad up its frontlines in the Yemen war, the New York Times reported on December 28, 2018.
Saudi Arabia offered around $10,000 to families in Darfur, Sudan, affected by the Sudanese civil war to send their children to fight in Yemen against the Houthis.
During the past three years, the Saudi-led coalition carried out numerous air strikes, mostly targeting civilians, in Yemen turning the country into what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
In Yemen, there are at least two million displaced people and 22 million people who need food and health assistance in Yemen, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
3. The UAE recklessly supporting militias in Yemen
Amnesty International published a report on Wednesday that the UAE is a major conduit for heavily armoured vehicles, machine guns, and a mortar system, all of which are being illegally distributed to militias accused of committing war crimes and human rights violations.
The presence of heavily armed militias also increases the future threat to Yemenis, who are suffering one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
The UAE-backed militias operate secret prisons also known as ‘black sites’.
At these prisons, people are exposed to the torture techniques including electric shocks, hanging from the ceiling, sexual humiliation, prolonged solitary confinement and a lack of food and water.
The Saudi-led coalition, which includes the UAE, has been at war in Yemen with the Houthis since 2015, triggering what the UN has called the world's largest humanitarian disaster.
Some Western countries cut their support for the coalition, however, the US and the UK have continued supplying weapons.
4. The UAE's intolerance toward rights activists
Despite launching the Ministry of Tolerance, researchers from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say that the UAE has been suppressing dissidents through harsh measures.
Devin Kenney, a researcher on the kingdom for Amnesty International, confirms the lack of critical voices in the UAE. “They’re certainly not tolerant of any form of political dissent,” he said.
Human rights activists and Muslim Brotherhood sympathisers have been imprisoned, academic research deemed sensitive has been curtailed, and human rights groups have been barred from entry. Political parties are banned and local media is censored.
Recently, the Gulf state was slammed by rights groups after an Emirati court upheld a 10-year jail sentence against rights activist Ahmed Mansoor for criticising its rulers on social media, just two weeks after the UAE declared 2019 the ‘Year of Tolerance’.
5. Saudi executions over politics
Saudi Arabia is the world’s third-biggest executioner, following China and Iran, Amnesty International said in its latest annual report issued in April 2018.
“Dozens of human rights defenders and activists are serving long prison sentences for criticising authorities or advocating political and rights reforms. Authorities systematically discriminate against women and religious minorities. In 2017, Saudi Arabia carried out 146 executions, 59 for non-violent drug crimes,” the HRW webpage reads.
In the last year, six people were sentenced to death for activities related to the 2011 Arab Spring.
UN human rights experts called on Saudi Arabia on October 29, 2018, to halt the six imminent executions.
They said that since the Saudis were all under the age 18 at the time, imposing the death penalty on them would violate international law, including a treaty protecting children ratified by the kingdom.
The charges against the six men are based on the “criminalisation of the exercise of fundamental rights, including freedom of assembly and expression,” it stated.