FCO’s dark alliance with the Emirates comes to light after repeated abuses of British nationals abroad.
When Brits find themselves arrested or charged with a crime in Dubai, they turn to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for advice and assistance. They expect their government will help them out of life threatening situations and are somewhat dismayed to be met with the FCO’s template response.
“The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCO) cannot interfere in the legal process of another country, just as they cannot interfere in ours. We can not provide legal advice and we advise you to appoint a local lawyer”.
“While this might seem like a fair response, it is quite misleading, dismissive and negligent”, said Radha Stirling, an Expert Witness and founder of Detained in Dubai, who has represented thousands of British nationals facing trouble in the UAE over the past thirteen years. Stirling represents the family of Albert Douglas, the latest Brit to be tortured in the United Arab Emirates.
“The FCO gives the misimpression that they have no ability to stand up for their citizens. This is clearly untrue and exemplified by the cases of Matthew Hedges, Asa Hutchinson and Conor Howard. All of these cases were resolved diplomatically. Further, Malaysia resolved the case of Richard Lau diplomatically. The US State Department just resolved the cases of Peter Clark and Danielle Jeffries diplomatically and Canada brought André Gauthier home. Australia resolved Matt Joyce and Marcus Lee diplomatically and the list goes on. It is rather amateur and dismissive for the FCO to claim they can not assist.
Detained in Dubai CEO, Radha Stirling, is representing the family of Albert Douglas who has been beaten and denied his medication in UAE prison.
“Albert Douglas has recently testified as to being beaten in prison for asking for his medication, of being forced to drink from a toilet and of being denied his life saving heart medication. While the FCO claims to take this seriously, the evidence says that they are not. If the government of the United Kingdom refused to tolerate human rights abuses against their citizens, the UAE would stop. It’s as simple as that.
“Albert has spoken to Prisoners Abroad by phone and explained the reality of the situation, including that there have been attempts to force him to confess to a crime where it was explained it would be "easier" for him if he did. Dubai is notorious for forcing confessions to the point where people have complained about violence and intimidation. Most people sign the confessions to avoid punishment. I don’t see warnings on the FCO travel advisory about this.
Albert Douglas's daughter Abigail, joined more than 200 protestors in front of the Houses of Parliament.
“We now have a death in police custody and multiple allegations of human rights abuses and torture. Lee Bradley Brown was killed in police custody and inquiries by the UK government were not cooperated with. I still recall the phone calls I received from traumatised inmates who saw Brown’s murder. The investigation was never concluded.
“Matthew Hedges is suing in the UK for his own torture. Karam Al Sadeq and Jihad Quzma have sued in the English high court for their torture, and there have been a number of United Nations complaints by British citizens. British courts deny extraditions to the UAE based on 'the real risk of human rights violations and torture'. If British courts will not extradite because of this risk, surely that means British citizens who are arrested there are also at risk?
“Yet, upon review of the FCO Travel advice, there are no warnings to British citizens that:
1. Should an allegation be made against them, they will likely be convicted, denied a fair trial and forced to confess;
2. They may be held for lengthy periods without charge, even against the UAE’s own laws;
3. They may be subject to beatings, human rights violations and torture;
4. That corruption in the UAE’s own legal and law enforcement sectors is rife;
5. That they may be targeted for the purpose of looting their investments;
6. That they may be scapegoated by local criminals.
“The FCO’s warnings on local laws and customs do not detail some of the most common reasons for arrests. The lack of warnings puts British citizens at risk. Visitors and expats falsely believe that if they follow the letter of the law, they will be safe.
“The reason I am outlining this information, is that it is detrimental to both the UAE and the UK, to turn a blind eye to these issues. Albert’s case highlights the ongoing failure of the British government to protect citizens while encouraging the UAE, a supposed ally, to continue in their abuses. This emboldens the UAE, creating an increasing security threat. When we ignore abuses because of our trade and security alliance, we give the green light for increased lawlessness. This has presented itself in many ways already. For example, money laundering and Iran sanction violations, a kidnapping on British soil, an attack on a US yacht in international waters and the illegal surveillance and hacking of human rights activists. If not kept in check, we run the risk of another Khashoggi style incident.
“Albert Douglas’s harrowing testimony shows that the UK has failed to protect its citizens and every failure that they do not rectify, further emboldens the belligerence of the UAE, causing an increased security threat. The FCO has protected the UAE by concealing the reality of judicial and penal abuses. By failing to warn citizens, the FCO has allowed the UAE’s marketing endeavours to dominate the media narrative, portraying that Dubai is a safe and modern enclave, rich in opportunity and touristic intrigue.
“This failure puts British lives at risk.
“The United Kingdom is Dubai’s most important Western ally, but the UK needs to show British citizens that this partnership is not at their expense.
“We’ve seen Members of Parliament stand up for their citizens in the past but this pattern needs to stop. They shouldn’t have to. This is where the FCO needs to work on more permanent solutions and they need to start warning Brits about the real risks. Covering up the misdeeds of the UAE only makes them complicit.
Asa Hutchinson’s case was raised at Parliament:
Matthew Hedges case was pressed by Jeremy Hunt, MP who even suggested sanctions were available:
Emma Lewell-Buck, MP raised Robert Urwin’s detention at Parliament:
Kenny McAskill, MP raised Conor Howard’s detention to the FCO and in the media: