The UAE has made progress in combating human trafficking, a US government report on human rights said, but faces allegations of restricting civil liberties and freedom of expression. The assessment, which is issued annually by the US State Department's bureau of democracy, human rights and labour and touches everything from the treatment of prisoners to media freedom and the rights of migrant workers, ostensibly guides US foreign policy on the UAE.
In its summary analysis, the report said there were "unverified reports of torture", that flogging was used as a judicially sanctioned punishment and that "arbitrary and incommunicado detention remained a problem", and claimed that the judiciary was not completely independent. Flogging is legal under Sharia in cases of illegal alcohol consumption and premarital sex. Issues such as media and internet censorship, as well as restrictions on freedom of assembly and religion were also identified as restrictions on civil liberties.
The Government owns three of the country's newspapers and heavily influences private media, and many local media censor themselves, the authors said. The problem of domestic abuse was "pervasive", abuse of domestic servants was "common" and there was legal and societal discrimination against women and non-citizens, the report concluded. "We consult with the UAE on a regular basis on a variety of issues, including human rights," said one US state department official. "As specific cases of human rights abuse arise, we raise them with the UAE Government."