No criminal would provide easy evidence

UAE's approval of UN visits

26 Oct 2021
UAE's approval of UN visits

The United Nations (UN) experts with special mandates have a number of tools to monitor the human rights situation in all countries of the world and to verify all allegations of human rights violations, as they have the right to receive complaints from individuals and community organizations around them, and they can also approach countries to verify and put an end to these violations.

Sometimes it is difficult for UN experts to monitor the human rights situation in a country based only on complaints, either because it is difficult to obtain information or because the State insists on denying the validity of these complaints. Therefore, UN experts conduct so-called "country visits".

Conducting official visits to countries to assess the human rights situation in the country is one of the main tools used by UN experts. These visits can be carried out individually or together with other experts - other UN mandate holders - or regional mandate holders.
Official visits of UN experts to other countries are made on the basis of an official request submitted by the experts to the government, and if the government agrees, it sends an invitation to the UN mission.

Some countries with a poor human rights record permanently refuse or even ignore these requests, while some countries send the so-called "standing invitation" to UN experts, which means that they are - in principle - ready to receive a visit from any holder of substantive jurisdiction at any time.

Sometimes these visits are part of the state's obligations when it signs certain conventions. For example, the "Convention against Torture" UN allows the sending of investigative committees and visits to the country to verify compliance with the Convention, but these clauses are optional and some countries refuse to accept them or have reservations about them.

During these visits, experts from UN assess the overall human rights situation in a country. At the end of the mission, they hold a press conference with national authorities, including members of the judiciary, parliamentarians, members of national human rights institutions - where possible - NGOs) and civil society organizations, and victims of human rights violations, and the UN and other intergovernmental organizations.

After the visit, the findings of the country visit, as well as the conclusions and recommendations of the special procedures, are presented in the form of a report to the Human Rights Council and the findings are published on the website UN.

The requests for visits made by the mandate holders of the United Nations are not considered as interference in the affairs of states and do not affect their sovereignty: firstly, because they are carried out with the consent of the government of the country concerned, and secondly, because they are part of the essence of the work of the experts of UN and many countries, including the major powers, agree with them.
The United Arab Emirates had previously agreed to visit some United Nations experts. In 2009, the UAE authorities agreed to visit the Special Rapporteur on “the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and any other child sexual abuse material” The last visit approved by the UAE government was the visit of Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul in 2014.

Since this visit, the UAE authorities have either rejected or ignored all the requests made by the UN experts, and the reason is that Ms. Knaul, submitted a report criticizing the independence of the judiciary in the UAE, and said it’s under the de facto control of the executive branch of government.

“I was alarmed by a number of credible reports stating that persons arrested for allegedly violating the security of the state are subject to numerous procedural violations. Some are kept in secret detention facilities and held incommunicado, or even in solitary confinement, for extended periods of time, and under these circumstances many are subject to torture and/or ill treatment”, said the expert.

She added: “No serious independent investigation of such allegations of torture has taken place, even when complaints were brought to prosecutors or judges,” she added. “Judges and prosecutors have an obligation to uphold human rights; for this reason, I call upon the UAE to establish an independent committee to investigate claims of ill-treatment and torture of persons in detention.”

Paradoxically, the UAE dealt with the results of this report on two levels, the first is the international level, where the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement denying the criticism by the UN expert to the UAE judiciary, and said that Ms. Knaul relied on information “were based on information from undisclosed sources”, and since then, the UAE refused or ignored all requests of UN experts to visit.

The second level was the local level, where the Emirati media edited out part of the report by Knaul, in which she said, "The UAE's achievements must be recognized & praised" without completing the text, because it condemns the human rights situation in the country.

In any case, the UAE authorities have since refused or ignored the requests for all of the following visits:

1) Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression

2) Special Rapporteur on Torture

3) Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

4) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

5) Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery

6) Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment

7) Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism

A list of official visits and requests to visit the UAE can be read here:

One of the contradictions of the Government of the UAE in this context is that it always praises its efforts in the fight against terrorism and yet refuses to respond to the visit request of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, because accepting the request would mean that the UAE is using the fight against terrorism as a cover for the fight against human rights.

Of course, the UAE authorities have the right to refuse the visits of the experts from UN, as this is not required, but they do not have the right to deny the reports from UN and use the usual pretext: "These reports come from leftist organizations".

For example, one of the main arguments made by the Emirati media after the European Parliament's decision on the human rights situation was that the MPs had not visited the UAE and relied on false reports. This is the same argument used against UN experts, even though the UAE refuses to allow them to visit.

In fact, the European Parliament is constantly asking the UAE government to allow it to visit the country and verify the claims made in the reports.

Just as the UAE government counters the reports of UN experts by saying, "They have never visited the UAE in their entire lives," the UAE government invokes the rejection or ignoring of visit requests by UN experts by speaking of "state sovereignty and the rejection of modern methods of colonialism."

These are flimsy pretexts used to try to cover up human rights violations, because the visits have nothing to do with state sovereignty or colonialism.

Rather, they are part of the work of special rapporteurs and UN experts who review the human rights situation.

If it is a matter of state sovereignty, as the UAE authorities claim, why do they refuse requests from independent human rights organizations to visit prisons and review their conditions? These organizations are not affiliated with states and carry out their work independently of the UN. Their work is limited to assessing the human rights situation and their visit does not impinge on the sovereignty of states.

After reviewing these facts, the Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre (EDAC) came to the following conclusion: "The UAE authorities' refusal and their disregard for the requests of experts from the UN and international organizations stems from their belief that allowing these visits would mean uncovering more human rights violations that they are trying to cover up, and they are aware that the reality is much worse than the reports, and therefore they have no interest in agreeing to such visits."

Approving the visits means for the UAE authorities to sign an admission that they have committed human rights violations, because these visits mean providing UN expert evidence of these violations, and no criminal would provide a simple evidence, no one will admit their crime in this way.