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United Arab Emirates Not Fit for Schengen

LONDON, February 26, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --

On Thursday, February 27th, the European Parliament at its plenary session in Strasbourg will vote on whether the United Arab Emirates (UAE) should join the Schengen Agreement, which would provide their citizens with visa-free travel throughout EU member states. But the EU must take into consideration: Human rights are still violated in the UAE and there are no signs for a improvement of the situation. The UAE should not be added to the visa waiver list until there is a binding commitment from the UAE to respect especially the rights of EU citizens.

The human rights climate of the UAE has deteriorated significantly in the last months. Political show trials have increased in their regularity and expanded in scope to include citizens who use social media to criticise abuses by authorities. Even the families of political prisoners get attacked more often.

Mistreament of European citizens

In many cases Europeans became victims of human rights abuses in the UAE. There was international outcry when a Norwegian woman was jailed for having extramarital sex after reporting to police that she had been raped. In a separate case, David Cameron was forced to ask for an investigation into the alleged torture of 3 Britons by Dubai police officers. Needless to say, conditions for migrant workers have not improved and there continues to be a litany of abuses carried out against them.

None of these concerns were raised when the EU's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee voted in favour of adding the UAE to the visa waiver list, in spite of a requirement to review a country's human rights record as part of the approval process. There was no mention of the resolution passed the previous year that called for a clear and principled policy toward the UAE in light of continued human rights abuses.

Just words, but no actions by the UAE

Authorities in the UAE may have made very public commitments to protect human rights, through their signing of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and election to the Human Rights Council, but these actions have proved to be nothing more than a PR-exercise.

Measurable commitment by the UAE is needed

The European Parliament should postpone its decision until the UAE has provided proper mechanisms for challenging and remedying abuses of human rights. While the desire of Europe to strengthen its ties with the UAE is entirely understandable, this must not be at the expense of its fundamental commitment to human rights and the rule of law.

Rori Donaghy
The Emirates Centre of Human Rights
Tel.: +44(0)785-0062-105
Mail: [email protected]

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