Dubai's long anticipated expo is finally in full swing, but so is the worldwide media in highlighting human rights abuses and even boycotting the expo.
“The United Arab Emirates is going to be pumping roughly £11 billion into the UK over the next five years through the Sovereign Investment Partnership”, Radha Stirling explains, “That’s not charity, it is investment from which the UAE expects significant returns; the Emirates is buying a share in the UK’s infrastructure, technology, life sciences, and energy sectors, and we should have no illusions about what that means or about what perks the UAE is expecting as new co-owners of some of our most vital economic interests.”
Stirling is the CEO and founder of advocacy group Detained in Dubai and Due Process International, both organisations that confront legal abuses in the UAE and around the world. “A disproportionate number of the cases we deal with involve British expats and investors defrauded, extorted, robbed, and abused by Emirati partners who view their enterprises as disposable resources and foreigners as powerless targets of exploitation,” she warns, “The UAE has a culture in which the rights of locals are unalienable but the rights of others are commodities that can be bought and sold. The deepening economic ties between the UK and the UAE should raise serious alarm bells for anyone concerned about the safety and human rights of British citizens, whether they are in the UAE or in Britain.”
As the Dubai Expo gets underway in the UAE, the country’s human rights record has come under renewed scrutiny, with the European Parliament calling for the event to be boycotted. “Most human rights organisations point to the UAE’s dreadful mistreatment of workers, particularly manual labour, and the country’s severe persecution of activists, censorship and intimidation of journalists, and the utter lack of freedom of expression,” Stirling says, “All of these are grave issues that need to be addressed; but our work exposes us to the dire state of the UAE’s legal system as a whole and the horrific experiences of foreign nationals; tourists, professionals, and investors; whose lives are destroyed on a daily basis by a system that is brutally biased and indifferent to the rule of law. It is a system that tortures, fabricates evidence, forces confessions, and threatens detainees’ families and loved ones. The Dubai Expo aims to lure more and more business people and investors to the UAE, all of whom are potential victims.”
Two of Stirling’s current clients, Albert Douglas and Billy Hood, both British citizens being wrongfully detained in the UAE, have generated massive public outrage in the UK about the Emirates’ belligerence towards Britons. “When the UK unveiled their pavilion at the Dubai Expo in September, Billy Hood had already been detained for 9 months over a friend’s bottles of CBD oil, and he is now facing a sentence of 25 years,” Radha says, “Shortly after Albert Douglas was arrested in the UAE in February, the UK accepted £800 million from the Emirates for life science projects was was promised £10b investment into the private sector. Albert has been severely beaten, denied medication, and subjected to unimaginable psychological trauma; all because his son’s business failed; meanwhile, the UK keeps receiving money from the UAE and further entrenching the co-dependent ties between the two countries. At a certain point, we have to recognise that Dubai is not only purchasing a share in our economy, they are buying impunity.
“How many British and foreign attendees at the Dubai Expo, assured by the participation of the UK, will be encouraged to invest today, only to find themselves falsely prosecuted tomorrow, convicted by a corrupt system, robbed of their capital, dispossessed of their businesses, jailed, abused and tortured in police custody, or maliciously pursued as fugitives by UAE-requested Interpol Red Notices at the behest of Emirati partners they met at the Expo?”
Stirling cautions that the UK government is neglecting the safety of its citizens by continuing to enable the UAE to present itself as a modern, Westernised destination for tourism and investment; and that deepening British economic reliance on Emirati support puts Britons at risk. “It is clear,” she says, “UAE investment in the UK is a power play by which the Emirates believes they are purchasing a license to prey upon British business people in the UAE, and to violate the rights of expats. These economic ties are not instilling greater respect for our citizens in the UAE, they are not increasing their security, they are not ensuring their protection; quite the opposite. The more influence the UAE enjoys within Great Britain, the less safe our citizens are in the UAE; and the more the UAE becomes a partner in our economy, the more we can anticipate on a national level the same type of exploitation and abuse so many of our clients have suffered on an individual at the hands of their own Emirati business partners.”
Founder & CEO at Detained in Dubai