The United Arab Emirates has lately been really busy trying to develop its image as a “happy and tolerant” nation.
But the Gulf state should instead invest its resources in far more important and pressing matters — for instance, looking into widespread allegations of systemic torture in its jails.
A new report by the United Nations’ Working Group On Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) states the UAE wrongly accused four businessmen of funding a terrorist group and forced them into making confessions using torture.
The prisoners — identified as Libyan-Canadian Salim Alaradi, Kamal, Libyan-American Mohamed Eldarrat and Issa al-Manna, a Libyan national — were drugged, given electric shocks, and “hung with a rope around the neck.” Some even believe, according to one source, that they were also “placed in a freezer for up to 45 minutes.”
“All of them were deprived of the right to challenge their arrest and detention before the judicial authorities and subjected to enforced disappearance, secret and incommunicado detention. [We] received reliable information on the acts of torture [inflicted on] the four victims,” the Guardian reports.
Since the UAE has prevented the accused from hiring lawyers and relatives from visiting the men or seeing their case files, according to a report by Human Rights Watch, it has been difficult to determine exactly what charges they are facing.
Alaradi, for instance, was arrested in the summer of 2014, while he was on vacation with his family by State Security Agency (SSA) agents in plain clothes. At the time, he was not permitted to contact his family or get a lawyer. He is now being represented by a Canadian lawyer, Paul Champ.
The arrests have sparked international concerns over the lack of fair trials in the UAE. Last year, a similar case emerged last year. Ahmad Zeidan, a 22-year-old British man, was sentenced to nine years after he was arrested when cocaine worth about £3 was found in the car he was traveling in.
Zeidan claims he was forced to sign a confession after being tortured for more than a week. His two appeals for government intervention have been denied.
The four businessmen are set to go on trial this week in Abu Dhabi in a secret state court where public access is limited and the verdict cannot be appealed.