On July 18, French President Emmanuel Macron will welcome United Arab Emirates President Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan to Paris. This welcome should not include excusing the crown prince for the UAE’s appalling record on human rights, Human Rights Watch said in a statement today.
The rights organisation also said that in the context of rising energy costs owing to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Macron’s hunt for alternative suppliers is expected to strengthen the already strong relations between France and the UAE. While the UAE has made significant attempts to present itself as a respecter of human rights, the reality is considerably darker.
In the United Arab Emirates, activists, attorneys, teachers, students, and anyone believed to be critics is imprisoned, prosecuted, and incarcerated; women and LGBT individuals experience discrimination; domestic servants are subject to considerable abuse under the kafala (visa sponsorship) system. The UAE has ruthlessly suppressed criticism for years. While the UAE government and state-controlled media hail recent legislative amendments as a positive development, the new laws strengthen government repression by retaining earlier provisions and adding new ones that pose significant dangers to freedom of expression, association, and assembly.
The United Arab Emirates has played an essential part in international conflicts in which its own troops and those it backs have committed grave atrocities. In Yemen, atrocity-ridden military operations led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have inflicted appalling civilian casualties. In Libya, UAE troops committed unlawful air and drone strikes on civilians while providing guns and ammunition to abusive local forces. Nonetheless, France decided in December 2021 to sell 80 Rafale fighter planes to the UAE.
Emmanuel Macron should advocate for the rights France promises to safeguard during this visit. He should advocate for releasing nonviolent critics, particularly the unjustly imprisoned human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor, repealing the kafala system, and revision of the new penal code and cybercrime legislation to bring them in line with international norms. Macron should advocate for impartial probes into war crimes in Libya and Yemen and reparations for civilians harmed by the UAE.
The alternative would only strengthen the UAE’s harsh policies at home and abroad, covering up significant infractions.