x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Interest grows in FNC's plan for UAE human-rights committee

Members of the Federal National Council said the plan to set up a new human-rights committee had created quite a buzz.

FNC member Hamad al Rahoomi spoke on the subject of the UAE's human rights committee . Christopher Pike / The National
FNC member Hamad al Rahoomi spoke on the subject of the UAE's human rights committee . Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // Members of the Federal National Council said the plan to set up a new human-rights committee had created quite a buzz.

They have been lobbying for its formation since a European Parliament resolution in October criticised the UAE's record in this area.

In November, Dr Abdulrahim Al Shahin (Ras Al Khaimah) asked Dr Anwar Gargash, the state minister for Foreign Affairs, how the Government intended to respond to the resolution.

At a majlis this month with several FNC members, a number of Emiratis said they feared the issue was tainting the country's image internationally.

After that, the council put together a report that concluded a committee was needed. It would, the council said, act as an intermediary between the European Union and the UAE Government, to help to protect human rights in the country.

The council said that "for human-rights reports from the UAE to be objective, they needed parliaments to be active in them", otherwise they could be seen as biased.

Members added that the committee could also help other FNC committees review laws to ensure they included protections for human rights.

Faisal Al Tunaiji (Ras Al Khaimah) and Hamad Al Rahoomi (Dubai) said the format of the committee would be similar to others. "Maybe it will be a little different, but we don't know yet," Mr Al Rahoomi said. "It will probably take complaints from people."

Noura Al Kaabi (Abu Dhabi) said it would need to have a focused role. She expected it to review all cases concerning citizens, such as the Emiratis who were detained after being suspected of posing a threat to state security.

It was important for such cases to be discussed internally first before news of them leaked out, she said.

Ms Al Kaabi added that the UAE should not be worried by criticisms of its human-rights record in foreign media. "At the end of the day everything we say is said in an open session," she said. "Newspapers, Twitter, the world will get it."

The council agreed that the committee's primary role should be to prepare human-rights reports that could be presented internationally.

Mr Al Rahoomi added that the committee would allow the FNC to investigate the EU's accusations, through field visits and questions to the Government.

"In the future we can respond about any problems in human rights. This will strengthen our power to speak abroad."

This would be the first FNC committee of its kind, and Mr Al Rahoomi said he believed many members would want to be on it.

Ms Al Kaabi said: "Prior talks between members showed that they were really committed, really want to be members."

osalem@thenational.ae