Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Human rights situation in the United Arab Emirates

Delivered in Plenary - 26th October 2012

Mr President

The UAE is a relatively open and diverse society with more than 100 000 British citizens residing there. This openness to outside influences continues to result in a better understanding among the governing élite of the importance of human rights. The EU and the UAE have an important economic and security partnership as well.

The UAE’s human rights indicators are generally a lot better than most other Arab States. Women, for instance, occupy senior positions throughout the government, business and civil society, including three lady ambassadors. Migrant labourers benefit from recent legislative changes to protect their rights and welfare. The UAE has also taken important steps to crack down on human trafficking.

This is not to gloss over concerns about the arrest of 62 Emiratis, but sadly most of these detainees appear to be Islamist hardliners who would like to reverse all the progress made in that country by closing down the churches. Mr Salavrakos has left, but he got it completely wrong: the people in prison want to close down the churches and persecute Christians, and they want to repress women. Those in this House who think that religious fundamentalism is the answer to improving human rights in the Gulf are sadly mistaken.

Whilst the ECR Group accepts that there are serious concerns about some aspects of human rights in the UAE, the situation is far worse in some neighbouring countries. Indeed, Iran, which regularly executes juveniles and gay people, is perhaps the most shocking. This resolution today is therefore unnecessary because it distracts attention from the real issue in the Gulf region: Iran’s desperate efforts to acquire nuclear arms, and its gross violations of human rights.

Of course the UAE Government must fully investigate the allegations against the 62 detainees. If there is no good evidence against them, these individuals should be released. If, on the other hand, there is clear evidence of a crime, the government should charge them and try them without delay in accordance with the law. But the idea that the UAE is a serious human rights violator is completely absurd.