x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Human-rights committee elected by Federal National Council

Summer break begins next month, with new panels being formed when council resumes.

ABU DHABI // The Federal National Council's new human-rights committee has been elected - but some members may spend only a few weeks in their new roles.

The council's summer recess begins in the middle of next month, and new committee elections will be held when it resumes in October.

The committee's role is to consider the status of human rights in the country, ensure new laws take human rights into account and look at international, bilateral and regional agreements on human rights, as well as individual cases referred to it by the council.

It was formed following a European Union resolution that criticised the UAE over conditions for migrant workers, the status of women and the death penalty.

Despite early suggestions that the seven-member committee could be substantially oversubscribed, in the end only seven members put their names forward - some of them reluctantly.

"A lot of members wanted to be on the committee, but a lot didn't in the end," Ali Jassim (UAQ) said.

He said the main reason for this was that members were limited to sitting on two committees - and most of those who were interested were already on two. Dr Abdulrahim Al Shahin (RAK) - one of the members who initially asked for the new committee to be set up - was among those who nominated himself.

But he was already on two committees so was not allowed to join a third. The same happened with Ahmed Al Shamsi (Ajman). "We all wanted to be on it but the rules prevented it," said Mr Al Shamsi.

After that, Mohammed bin Ham (Abu Dhabi), Obaid Rakad (UAQ) and Mr Jassim nominated themselves. After Mr Jassim appealed for a woman on the committee, Noura Al Kaabi (Abu Dhabi) put herself forward.

Dr Mona Al Bahar (Dubai) declined to join despite being urged to by the Speaker, Mohammed Al Murr (Dubai).

With three members still needed to complete the committee, council members started pushing others to join, reminding them they were only on one committee.

Sultan Al Shamsi (Ajman), Ali Al Nuaimi (Ajman) and Abdulaziz Al Zaabi (RAK) nominated themselves.

"All the members of the committee are good. We encouraged them out of friendship and because they were eligible to join," Mr Al Shamsi said.

Members had the option of leaving one of their existing committees in favour of human rights, but most had already invested two years into their work and were reluctant to change.

Some were concerned about being able to give human rights the attention it warranted.

"I wanted to focus more on the finance committee," said Mr Al Nuaimi, who is charge of pulling together the committee's reports.

"But they asked because there were not enough people for the human-rights committee. So I joined. I am here to serve the country."

He said the committee's membership was likely to change in October, after the four-month break time.

"In October there will be new elections to the committees. If it's not good for me I may change," he said.

Mr Jassim said Mr Al Nuaimi was also pushed because he was renowned as a proactive man.

Mr Jassim, who has been an FNC member since 1993 and was a member of the international parliament's human-rights committee between 2007 and 2010, said he had been waiting a long time for this committee to be formed.

Mr Al Shamsi said that even though he was not on the committee, he and other members would work closely with it.

He said all of its reports would be raised to the council, giving all members a chance to debate its work, which is likely to start this week.


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