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State Dept.: Human Rights Abuses in UAE

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The U.S. State Department issued a recent report critical of the human rights record of the United Arab Emirates. "The three most significant human rights problems in the UAE were arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, and lengthy pretrial detentions, limitations on citizens' civil liberties and citizens' inability to change their government,"  according to the report.

The report also mentioned other human rights problems including reports of police and prison guard brutality. The report went on and said that the government continued to interfere with citizens' privacy rights, and placed some limits on freedom of movement.

The 2012 annual report on human rights spoke of a lack of transparency and judicial independence despite "limited reports of corruption."

Dozens of citizens, the majority of them arrested last year, are on trial in the UAE for allegedly plotting to seize power and overthrow the government. The trial is the largest in the history of the UAE, and has not seen any of the widespread pro-reform protests that have swept other Arab states. This is because authorities have boosted a crackdown on dissent and calls for democratic reform.

The U.S. report also criticized the oil-rich Gulf country, home to millions of foreign workers, mostly from South Asian countries, for foreign labor abuses. "The government restricted worker rights, including the rights of foreign workers. Forced labor was a problem, although the government took steps to combat it. Mistreatment of foreign domestic servants and other migrant workers, including sexual abuse, remained a problem," said the report.

In response, the United Arab Emirates' Assistant Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs, Abdul Rahim Al-Awadhi, said that the, issued on April 19, was unbalanced, unfair and failed to give adequate recognition to the very significant progress that has been made to promote and protect human rights in the country.

The statement issued by the UAE state news agency said that the UAE 2012 Human Rights Report "does not mention some of the important steps that the UAE has taken in 2012 to further the protection of human rights."

Al-Awadi complained that by focusing on specific instances of alleged human rights violations, the report fails to adequately reflect the overall progress made in the country. In addition, the report does not mention some of the important steps taken by the UAE in 2012 to further protect human rights.

When discussing discrimination against women, for example, the report makes no mention of the fact that in December 2012, the UAE cabinet made it compulsory for corporations and government agencies to include women on their boards of directors. The report also does not mention the fact that there are four female ministers in the cabinet.

"The UAE faces many challenges on human rights issues, like other countries, and is highly committed to an ongoing process of improvement in this regard," Al-Awadhi reiterated. "The UAE government takes concerns of any possible violation of human rights very seriously and is constantly working at strengthening its capacity to respond to these. It will continue to take this proactive approach in a way that is consistent with its constitution, laws and traditions."

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org