This past weekend, Lee Bradley Brown would have celebrated his 52nd birthday. For his family and friends, and everyone who has been touched by his story, June 18th has become a sombre day on which we not only remember the life Lee lived, but also the life he lost too tragically soon.
Lee was about two months shy of his 40th birthday in 2011 when he was found dead in a solitary confinement cell in Bur Dubai police station by the same guards who had placed him there. He was bruised and injured, and had died unnoticed shortly after being locked in the cell. No satisfactory explanation has ever been given for his cause of death.
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, has long campaigned for a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding Lee’s last moments, “Only last year there was an official inquest into his death,” she says, “And it was concluded that he died from a combination of injuries sustained from being beaten, from lack of food and water, and denial of access to medical care. But the inquest failed to identify who had beaten him and fell short of directly assigning conclusive guilt to anyone responsible for his death. 12 years later, no one in Dubai has been held accountable, and the officials of Bur Dubai station continue to refuse to cooperate with any serious investigation.”
Stirling says that every year, Brown’s birthday marks another milestone in Dubai’s continuing impunity. “The most that UAE authorities have been blamed for is ‘negligence’, as if death by repeated blunt force trauma is an accidental occurrence which the police should have been more vigilant in avoiding. They have refused to release any CCTV footage of Lee which might prove who actually assaulted him; though they had promised to provide this footage to the inquest. The obvious suspicion in this case, and in every case of death in custody, is that the police themselves were the perpetrators, and their refusal to provide evidence only intensifies that suspicion.”
The alternative explanation for Brown’s fatal injuries, Stirling says, still leave Dubai police culpable; “If Lee was beaten be other inmates, the guards at Bur Dubai station are responsible for order and for the physical safety of those in detention. We do not have reports of violent inmates being locked in solitary confinement after attacking Lee Bradley Brown; we only have Lee himself being thrown in an isolation cell, bruised and bloodied, deliberately denied food and water, and from having his injuries seen to by a doctor. Even if we believe that the police did not commit the assault themselves, their subsequent actions constitute criminal complicity, not just negligence.”
While the October inquest into his death provided some sense of closure for Lee’s family and friends, Stirling says, painting a painful picture of his final moments, justice has yet to be delivered in his case. “The inquest gave us some answers about Lee’s death, but no one has been made to answer for his death.
“Without legal consequences and punishment of the guilty; and with Dubai officials allowed to remain aloof from investigation without political or economic repercussions from the UK for the wrongful death of one of our citizens; the UAE has learned that our own government underwrites Dubai’s impunity. It is outrageous that not only has Dubai never been held accountable for Lee’s death, but it continues to enjoy the privilege of being promoted as a destination for tourism and investment for the British public, despite the obvious risks this poses to UK citizens.”
Stirling says she still hopes for justice in Brown’s case, “It has not happened yet, but on some June 18th in the coming years, we may yet commemorate Lee’s birthday with the successful prosecution of those responsible for his death. In the years since 2011, cases of torture, police brutality, wrongful detention, and abuse within the UAE legal system have only increased, and Western governments (including in the UK) are becoming ever more ambivalent about our relationship with the Emirates. Despite Dubai’s perpetual marketing campaigns, the public are increasingly aware that the UAE is a dubious ally at best, and at worst, a threat to Western interests, as well as to Westerners themselves who visit the country. Eventually, the Emirates will not be able to evade accountability, and those responsible for the death of Lee Bradley Brown must someday answer for it.”
CEO at Detained in Dubai