Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] on Monday urged [text] US President Barack Obama to press United Arab Emirates (UAE) [BBC backgrounder] Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan [official website] to act upon the worsening human rights situation in the UAE. Al Nahyan will visit [White House press release] Obama in the US on Tuesday. HRW's concerns are in response to UAE authorities' crack-down on domestic dissent and freedom of expression, as well as the ongoing mass trial [JURIST report] of 94 peaceful critics of the government. HRW Executive Director Sarah Leah Whitson wrote:
I urge you to press Al Nahyan to ensure the UAE authorities cease arbitrary detentions, respect the rights to fair trial, freedom of expression and opinion, launch a thorough, independent and impartial investigation into allegations of torture, and reform its anti-trafficking laws to provide for the prosecution of trafficking for forced labor.Whitson said that though the UAE has not faced the same level of civil unrest as some of its neighboring countries, its gross violations should be of concern to its international allies and must be remedied.
Last month the UAE began the trial of 94 people charged with plotting to overthrow the government. The group of defendants includes unnamed doctors, academics, lawyers and other professionals [Guardian report] arrested over the past year and accused of forming a secret network with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood [official website; JURIST news archive] and designs to raise money in a plotted coup against Emirati ruling families. UAE authorities began arresting al-Islah members last March, when security forces arrested Ahmed al-Zaabi, a former judge, and Ahmed Ghaith al-Suwaidi together at a Dubai gas station. They detained the chairman of al-Islah, Sheikh Sultan Bin Kayed al-Qasimi, on April 20. Since last year both Amnesty International and HRW have called on the UAE to investigate allegations of torture and stop the recent crackdown on political activists [JURIST reports] by ending arrests and releasing those already in custody, expressing concern that the UAE is threatening to revoke prisoners' citizenship as a way of punishing them for expressing public dissent, an action that the advocacy groups contend violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text].