London, United Kingdom (Reprieve) – UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) is supporting a trade fair hosted by the Dubai police this week, despite widespread use of police torture in the UAE.
The event, the Emirates Security Exhibition and Conference (Emsec), is said by its organizers to be ‘designed to support and encourage UK exports’. It is officially hosted by the Dubai police, though UKTI has organized a reception at the British embassy in Dubai for UK companies taking part.
Human rights organization Reprieve – which assists British and other victims of police torture in the Emirates – has previously raised concerns with UKTI about its support for the event. Reprieve’s research has found that some 75 per cent of prisoners in Dubai Central Jail reported having been tortured into ‘confessing’. They include British citizens who say they were subjected to electric shocks. Despite this, a recommended ‘product requirement list’ given to UK companies ahead of this week’s event included the category ‘Public Order Equipment – Electronic’.
British student Ahmad Zeidan, from Reading, was arrested and tortured in December 2013, and was eventually convicted on the sole basis of a ‘confession’ he signed in Arabic – a language he neither reads nor writes. Ahmad, who initially faced a potential death sentence, recently learned that he was not included in a royal pardon that saw hundreds of other prisoners freed – despite his requests to the UK Foreign Office to support his case.
A 2013 UKTI strategy document unearthed by Reprieve lists security export events such as Emsec as a new priority for the Government, and a Reprieve Freedom of Information request has revealed that last year the government spent £12,000 on encouraging British companies to attend.
The event comes as the UAE was expected to secure re-relection to the United Nations Human Rights Council, in a vote today. In a submission to the body in support of their bid, Emirati representatives said: “Our wish to serve a second term on this esteemed body reflects our view that societies that uphold human rights are more resilient, more sustainable and more secure.”
Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:
“The Emirati authorities have boasted to the UN about their human rights record, but the reality is dismal. the UAE systematically uses torture to secure convictions – and death sentences – based on bogus statements. British student Ahmad Zeidan is still languishing in prison after he was forced to sign one of these ‘confessions’. Instead of lending UK support to the Emirati police responsible for his torture, the British Government should make clear that we want no part in such abuses – and should demand the release of victims like Ahmad without delay.”
This report prepared by Reprieve.