On 6 May, 2015 the European Union (EU) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed a 90-day visa waiver agreement in Brussels. Representatives of the Latvian Presidency of the Council and the European Commission signed the agreement on behalf of the EU, whileAmbassador Sulaiman Hamid Almazroui, signed the agreement on behalf of UAE. Following singing the agreement, the EU became the first Arab country to sign such an agreement with the EU, allowing its citizens and that of the EU to stay in both territories for a period of 180 days within any a given period of 180 days.
Despite the potential benefits of such an agreement for the nationals of both parties, the EU has failed to consider the situation of human rights, workers’ rights, money laundry and tax evasion in the UAE, in addition to oppressing political opposition where dozens of activists have been thrown into jails due to expressing their opinions on ongoing events in the region, in addition to the UAE role in Yemen which resulted in various human rights violations, which contradicts the EU’s commitments in relation to human rights and freedom of speech.
According to a report published by Human Rights Watch on January 18, 2018 “The United Arab Emirates was involved in abuses at home and abroad in 2017, arresting one of the last outspoken rights critics in the country and playing a role in torture and disappearances in Yemen.” One of the people detained at home was Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent award-winning UAE national who has been the voice of the UAE over the years defending their human rights and exposing human rights violations against them. Human rights violations in the UAE extend to foreign workers who face serious exploitation. This includes discrimination based on gender, identity and sexual orientation, Human Rights noted.
These violations are not limited to home, but rather they extend beyond the borders of the UAE, especially in Yemen where the UAE is a leading member of the Saudi-led coalition against Houthis, where the UAW has been in involved in dozens of human rights violations, some of which amount to war crimes and that resulted in the death of 1,000 civilians. This also included supporting abuse Yemeni forces that was heavily involved in human rights violations. This also involved the torture of detainees inside UAE-run prisons and facilities. “Whenever the US and others praise the UAE for its critical counterterrorism support in places like Yemen, they paper over a much darker reality – of disappearances, torture, and detainee abuse, and their own potential complicity in these abuses,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said.
The UAE is heavily engaged in financial crimes in a violation of the commitments and principles of the EU. This includes drug trade, tax evasion and money laundering. This UAE behavior contradicts the principles of transparency of the EU which has been adopted over the years and put the credibility of the EU at stake. The EU has to take serious steps in this regard as the implications of these financial crimes might have regional and international implication such as funding terrorism, which puts the EU’s security at stake.
These violations contradict the EU’s regulations and principles in relation to promoting and protecting human rights, which requires a comprehensive review of the visa-waiver agreement signed between the two parties. These UAE violations contradict the provisions of the EU Convention on Human Rights, which calls for protecting human life, prohibits torture, prohibits forced labor, protects right to liberty and security, promotes freedom of expression, and prohibits discrimination. This report is divided into two sections, the following section will address EU commitment to human rights in light with cooperating with third parties and the second section will highlight the UAE’s human rights abuses in light of its partnership with the EUhuman dignity a special place where it came first in its charter on human rights. Article 1 and 2 of the Charter reads “Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected,” and “1. Everyone has the right to life. 2. No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed.” Therefore, the right of human dignity and life has been on the forefront of the EU approach to promoting human rights, including signing agreements with other countries for the same purpose.
In the same context ofprohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Article 4 of the Charter states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The EU has engaged in human rights dialogues aimed at combating torture and ill-treatment of people such as the dialogue launched with Iran and China. The EU has always been critical of groups or states that have been involved in torture in different parts of the world and has always called for terminating torture and abuse. In fact, a special EU committee was formed to combat torture known as European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT).
Council of the European Union, “EU signs visa waiver agreement with the United Arab Emirates,” Press Release, 6 May 2015 accessed on 17 July 2018, link: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2015/05/06/eu-signs-visa-waiver-agreement-united-arab-emirates/
Amnesty International, “United Arab Emirates,” Country Profile, UAE, date unknown, accessed on 17 July 2018, link to the profile: https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/united-arab-emirates/report-united-arab-emirates/
Human Rights Watch, “UAE: Abuses at Home, Abroad: Prominent Critic Detained; Possible War Crimes in Yemen,” Human Rights Watch, published on 18 January 2018, accessed on 16 July 2018, link: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/18/uae-abuses-home-abroad
The European Union, “European Convention on Human Rights,” Article 1 to Article 15, accessed on 18 July 2018, link: https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Convention_ENG.pdf
Charter of Fundamental Rights ofThe EuropeanUnion, Official Journal of the European Union, C 326/391, 26 December 2012, accessed on 17 July 2018, link: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:12012P/TXT
For more information about CPT, check their website https://www.coe.int/en/web/cpt