x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Ministry of Foreign Affairs defends country’s human rights record

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has responded to a US State Department report on human rights in the UAE.

ABU DHABI // A US State Department report on the UAE’s human rights record needs to be “recalibrated”, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said.

The ministry expressed surprise and regret at the report last month about UAE national Hassan Al Diqqi and his 2012 initiative to launch a political party called Al Ummah.

“This is both surprising and regrettable given that a senior representative to the Ummah Organisation, and founder and current president of the Al Karama organisation, Abdul Rahman bin ‘Umayr Al Nu’aymi, was designated in December 2013 by the US Department of the Treasury as an Al Qaeda terror financier.

“Moreover, Hassan Al Diqqi’s extremist credentials are long established, as noticed by The Washington Post, with his support for jihad publicly recorded as far back as 2002, and most recently in 2013 as evidenced readily by social media,” said the ministry in a statement distributed by the state news agency Wam.

The Washington Post article from September described Al Diqqi as appearing in a video alongside a Saudi branch leader for the Ummah group at a military training camp it had set up in Syria.

The US report had said “there were no updates” on Al Diqqi or the Ummah organisation at the end of the year, under a section about political parties.

“The Ummah oversight would seem to suggest that a recalibration of the report findings is necessary and that it therefore provides an unbalanced picture of the human rights situation in the UAE,” the ministry said.

It said the UAE had written to the state department to suggest that it revise its report “based on readily available public source information including US media outlets and social media services as well as information recently published by the United States Department of the Treasury”.

The ministry suggested that Al Karama group’s lobbying on behalf of Al Diqqi could explain why he was featured in the State Department’s 2012 and 2013 reports as a human rights activist, but did not explain “why there is no update on the extensive violent jihadist activities and support for such activities in Syria and other territories of both Hassan Al Diqqi and the Ummah Conference”.

“Consistent with recent US steps to deny Al Karama special consultative status at the United Nations, the UAE would suggest it is prudent for the State Department to review its Middle East human rights reporting, and identify causes that originated with the Al Qaeda-linked Al Karama Foundation either directly or through its working relationships with prominent international human rights organisations,” the ministry said.

The US report cited citizens’ inability to change their government, limitations on citizens’ civil liberties and arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions and lengthy pre-trial detentions as three of the “most significant human rights problems” in the UAE, and also mentioned issues such as police brutality, privacy rights and restriction of workers’ rights.

“The facts are that the UAE is committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and has demonstrated its openness to engaging in constructive dialogue on human rights issues, both in the multilateral fora and bilaterally with partners such as the European Union,” the ministry said.

It said the country underwent its second Universal Periodic Review by the UN’s Human Rights Council last year, and that the Government was following up on “more than 100 recommendations that we accepted”.

The ministry also referenced efforts to curb human trafficking and promotion of gender equality and workers rights, all issues mentioned in the US report. It said the UAE had ratified nine major International Labour Organisation conventions on the rights of workers and “is continuously working to strengthen the enforcement of labour protections”.

“We take pride in our achievements but we are never satisfied with the status quo. The UAE will continue to strive to improve respect for human rights regardless of the criticism because human rights are part of the values that motivate us,” the ministry said.

newsdesk@thenational.ae