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  • Writer's pictureDue Process International

FCDO must increase UAE travel warnings after Brown inquest

The coroner's report is not the first time they've been told

The inquest into the death of British citizen Lee Bradley Brown, who died in a Dubai police station 11 years ago, heard that the number of new cases of Britons reporting torture or mistreatment in Dubai to the Foreign Office had surged from 3 per cent of the global total to 13 per cent in just four years.

“This is something we have repeatedly raised with the FCDO,” says Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai and Due Process International, “We are really talking about a crisis-level surge in torture, abuse, and human rights violations against British and other foreign nationals in UAE detention.”

Stirling explains that the dramatic increase in the numbers of cases corresponds to Dubai’s successful marketing of the UAE as a safe and modern tourist destination for Westerners, the country’s pursuit of investment in the UK and Europe, and the almost non-existent consequences Dubai faced over the illegal raid on an American yacht in 2018 to recapture the escaped daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Sheikha Latifa.

Year on year, the UAE has moved up the ranks to now become the UK’s 23rd largest trading partner, and Emirati investment has grown rapidly over the past 4 years. Between 2019 ad 2020, UAE direct investment in Britain increased more than 120%; there was a slight decrease during the pandemic, but Emirati FDI into the UK is once again pumping tens of billions of pounds into the economy,” Stirling says, “Added to this undeniable economic influence being purchased by the UAE, Dubai has spent untold billions on perpetual marketing campaigns to promote the UAE as a destination for tourism and investment. When Sheikh Mohammed ordered a coordinated maritime raid along with the Indian Coast Guard in international waters against an American-flagged yacht 4 years ago, seizing all crew and passengers onboard, in order to capture his escaped daughter Princess Latifa; he faced no formal reprimand; he defied a United Nations enquiry, without any serious repercussions, and has never been held to account for what was unarguably a grave breach of international law. All of these factors have emboldened the UAE with a sense of impunity.

The dramatic increase in torture cases since 2018 not only does not surprise us, it is something we consistently warned about and anticipated at the time. We have been cautioning the Foreign Office for years that their travel advisory for the UAE is inadequate, and that this inadequacy puts the lives of British tourists, expats, and business people at risk. Police abuse, systematic torture, forced confessions, intimidation and threats, secret detention facilities, fabricated evidence, lack of legal representation, judicial and prosecutorial misconduct, and a glaring absence of due process are all endemic features of the UAE justice system.

“We are glad to see the Foreign Office being officially advised to upgrade its travel warnings, however, these warnings should not only include the dangers posed to British citizens in detention, but also the serious risks they face in the UAE of being falsely arrested and wrongfully prosecuted even when they are obeying the law. In the Emirates, arrest and conviction almost always follows any accusation, even when no evidence exists to substantiate it. The UAE is one of the easiest places in the world to get arrested; you can even be charged over a Whatsapp message or something you said or wrote online in your home country, if local authorities find it objectionable.

“We would also like to see the Foreign Office requiring consular staff to be more responsive and involved in the cases of Britons detained in the UAE. The experience of detained citizens with the UK embassy is uniformly one of indifference and passivity. Britons held in the UAE feel alone and unsupported; and this at a time when the British government is aware that torture and abuse in Emirati jails is escalating. At a time when their concern should be elevated, what we see is that it is noncommittal; despite the fact that the Foreign Office has shown in the past that they absolutely do have the power to intervene; as we saw in the case of Matthew Hedges.

“Tragically, no one will ever be held accountable for the death of Lee Bradley Brown, but the UK government must do more to ensure that no other British citizen suffers the same fate, and they must take urgent steps to safeguard the human rights of Britons overseas, even if that means jeopardising lucrative economic deals with the UAE by warning Brits not to travel there.”


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