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OPINION

Hypocrisy of Humanity

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File

This year from November 30th through December 12th, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will host the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP 28) of the United National Climate Change Conference. As the annual follow-up to the Paris Climate Agreement, the purpose of the conference is a global forum for world leaders to examine current progress and discuss ways to improve in the years ahead. In hosting the conference, the goal of the Government of the UAE is to show to the world that it is a progressive leader dedicated to the future of the world.

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Dubai, the conference location, will be part of the façade the UAE will be presenting. The city itself is a modern-day archaeological wonder. Behind the façade and hidden from the attendees will be all the human rights abuses continually committed by the UAE Government. On the Human Rights Index, the UAE is ranked in the bottom fourth of the 168 evaluated nations. Even Putin’s Russia rates higher.

This Index is the result of a cooperative effort by the Cato Institute, the Fraser Institute, and the Liberales Institut at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Included in the 12 key categories to make their decisions are rule of law, security and safety, legal system and property rights, expression and information, and assembly. The Index is not a political tool, but a reflection of reality. 

In 2012, 60 human rights defenders and political activists were arrested by the government and convicted in a mass trial that severely failed to meet the standards of justice when examined by American and European jurists. The sentences ranged from seven to 15 years. Over two-thirds of the convicted have completed their sentences, but to this day remain in UAE prisons. Those who can receive family visits report torture and abuse.

Those who are denied visits have joined the ever-growing list of dissidents subjected to “enforced disappearance.” Exercising its 2014 anti-terrorism law, UAE claims these prisoners are still a terrorist threat and must be kept in confinement. In 2021, the UAE implemented a Cybercrime Law which allows the government to arrest and detain anyone in its jurisdiction to have used the web to make negative comments about the country.

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These anti-terrorism and cyber laws have been applied to UAE citizens and foreign visitors. Anyone attending COP 28 will be subject to this law, even if their comments are two years old. Journalists covering the event must be careful not to even mention the strife of dissidents, human rights defenders, and those already imprisoned.      

Examples of UAE foreign arrests and continuing custody for speaking out against the UAE are Syrian citizen Ahmed Andulrahman al-Nahhas and Jordanian citizen Ahmed al-Atoum. Continuing imprisonment examples are UAE citizens Abdullah al-Helou and engineer Abddulwahed al-Badi whose sentences ended six and five years ago respectively.

Ahmed Mansoor, the foremost human rights defender in the UAE, was arrested in 2019 for inciting “sectarian strife and hatred” because he published a report identifying his government’s abuses. What the western world calls “freedom of speech” and “freedom of the press,” the government convicted Ahmed Mansoor on the charge that he brought “harm [to] the reputation of the state.”        

It is important that western citizens realize that UAE prisons have no comparison with the United States, Canada, and Europe, unless Dark and Middle Ages standards are applied. Even though UAE is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, human rights within its own borders are non-existent – other than perhaps that of a quick and speedy trial (although the verdict is always predetermined).

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Every year in the past decade, UAE’s unwarranted arrests, threats of arrest, and reprisals (even against witnesses cooperating with the UN) have been identified in the UN Secretary General’s annual report. Efforts by European and North American governments to secure the release of wrongfully imprisoned people have been ignored by the UAE. Even information confirming who is in custody has not been forthcoming.    

Yet, hypocrisy runs deep. Representatives from around the world are planning their trips to Dubai so they can be hosted by, and dialog with, one of the most brutal governments in the world about saving the world from itself. Even John Kerry has been praising UAE’s involvement by stating, “it’s so important that you have an oil and gas producing nation step up and say we understand the challenge of the climate crisis.” This is not Kerry’s first shot at ignoring human rights while pushing his own agenda. To achieve a nuclear weapons deal that never stood a chance of being honored by Tehran, then Secretary of State Kerry remained silent and allowed his subordinates to downplay Iran’s continual executions and brutal imprisonment of its own political dissidents.    

If the UAE wishes to prove to the world that it is concerned about humanity, then it needs to start fixing the problems within its own borders. This includes stopping arrests and convictions of human rights activists, releasing those already wrongfully imprisoned, closing its secret detention facilities, reforming its entire prison system, and bringing its own government into the 21st century.

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