The New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs (NYCFPA) is deeply concerned about the ongoing human rights violations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the impact that it could have on the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The recent joint statement by Human Rights Watch and other organizations highlights the severity of the situation, with reports of torture, arbitrary detention, and restrictions on the right to freedom of expression and assembly.
According to Amnesty International’s 2021/2022 report on the UAE, the government continues to restrict freedom of expression and assembly, with authorities cracking down on peaceful dissent and imposing harsh penalties on those who express their opinions. The report states that “people who dared to criticize the authorities, including on social media, were arrested, tortured, and imprisoned.” The government also uses surveillance technology to monitor citizens and track their online activity.
The situation is especially dire for political activists and human rights defenders. The joint statement from Human Rights Watch and other organizations notes that “UAE authorities have detained and prosecuted numerous human rights defenders, political activists, and journalists, in violation of their rights to free expression, association, and assembly.” Many of these individuals have been subjected to arbitrary detention and torture, including solitary confinement, beatings, and sexual assault.
The exploitation and abuse of migrant workers is also a significant human rights issue in the UAE. According to a 2021 report by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), “migrant workers are trapped in a system of debt bondage, working for little or no pay in dangerous conditions.” The report also notes that “employers regularly confiscate passports, withhold wages, and expose workers to hazardous conditions without proper safety equipment.”
As we approach COP28, it is critical that we do not overlook the UAE’s human rights record. Climate change is a global issue that requires collective action, but we cannot sacrifice human rights in the pursuit of environmental sustainability. The NYCFPA calls on the United States and the United Nations to use their influence to pressure the UAE to respect and protect human rights.
We urge the US government to withhold any financial or diplomatic support to the UAE until significant improvements are made in the country’s human rights record. The US is a significant trading partner and ally of the UAE, and as such, it has the power to leverage its influence to demand change. Additionally, we call on the UN to establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the UAE’s human rights violations and hold those responsible accountable.
The NYCFPA stands in solidarity with the people of the UAE who have been denied their basic human rights. We will continue to monitor the situation in the country and advocate for justice and accountability. The world must not turn a blind eye to the human rights violations committed in the UAE, and we must work together to ensure that human rights are respected and protected, even as we address the pressing issue of climate change.