Human rights organizations called on the UAE to show tolerance for its people and stop its repression rather than promoting what it called a global conference of human brotherhood.
Amnesty International said on its Twitter that the UAE was trying to call 2019 “Year of Tolerance,” and Abu Dhabi authorities were trying to make the Pope Francesco’s visit as a sign of respect of diversity.
Amnesty wondered whether that meant the UAE was prepared to back down from the “systematic repression policies” against all forms of opposition and criticism.
The organization stressed that more than symbolic meetings are needed to cover up the horrific UAE human rights violations record.
Amnesty added that many human rights defenders such as Ahmed Mansour, Nasser Ben Ghaith, and Mohammed Al-Rokn, who were imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression, would not be able to attend the reception of the pope.
Amnesty called on the pope to raise the issue of human rights activists detained in UAE prisons with officials in Abu Dhabi and called for their immediate and unconditional release.
The organization stressed that if the UAE authorities are serious about reform, they should abolish discriminatory laws and practices and work to release all prisoners of conscience.
Human Rights Watch urged the Pope to pressure the UAE to stop the serious human rights abuses committed by its forces in Yemen and end its repression of critics inside.
In a letter to the pope, Human Rights Watch said the UAE had a prominent role in Yemen’s military operations, Including the bombing of homes, markets, and schools, obstruction of humanitarian aid and the use of cluster munitions.
Human Rights Watch added that the UAE authorities have been constantly attacking freedom of expression and associations since 2011 and that thousands of migrant workers there are very vulnerable to forced labor.
The Swedish-based Skyline Foundation also called on Pope Francis to raise privacy invasion, piracy and espionage issues with UAE officials. The group described these violations as widespread against citizens and residents.
The organization said that since 2011, the UAE authorities have publicly blinded protesters, critics, lawyers, academics and journalists through arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, and ill-treatment.
It also called on the Pope to raise the findings of the Reuters investigation of the US intelligence agents who work for the UAE in southern Yemen.
Commenting on the Pope’s visit, which Abu Dhabi has put under what it called religious tolerance, Mohammed Al-Mukhtar Al-Shanqiti, a professor at Hamad bin Khalifa University in Qatar said that if so, Abu Dhabi had to apply this policy of tolerance to its citizens and opponents alike.