Channel Islands Humanists has questioned the Government of Jersey’s commitment to protecting and promoting human rights internationally after it announced an economic partnership with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country which has been widely criticised for its regime of arbitrary arrests and detentions, its participation in abuses in the Yemen conflict, and its persecution of religion and belief minorities and the LGBT community. The country makes it illegal for its citizens to be of any religion other than Islam, and apostasy is punishable by death.
Yesterday, Senator Ian Gorst, Minister for External Relations from the Government of Jersey, jointly hosted a webinar with UAE Ambassador to the UK, His Excellency Mansoor Adulhoul, to discuss closer economic ties and an international partnership between the two states. Mr Adulhoul stated that the event was intended to help both states to seize ‘the opportunities of recovery and deepening our co-operation with a like-minded partner.’ After the meeting it was announced that ‘Jersey and the UAE are working together to negotiate a Bilateral Investment Treaty which, when signed, will be Jersey’s first such Treaty’.
In its 2020 World Report, Human Rights Watch stated, ‘Especially in cases related to state security, individuals [in the UAE] were at serious risk of arbitrary and incommunicado detention, torture, and ill-treatment, prolonged solitary confinement, and denial of access to legal assistance. Forced confessions were used as evidence in trial proceedings, and prisoners complained of dismal conditions and inadequate medical care.’
Freedom of religion or belief is extremely limited in the UAE, with all citizens deemed to be Muslims. Conversion to other religions or to being non-religous is forbidden and the legal punishment for conversion from Islam is death, one of only 13 states globally to impose such a punishment. There is also systematic persecution of LGBT people in the UAE, which prosecutes and imprisons individuals for same-sex relationships. It does likewise for sexual activity outside of marriage, including women who report instances of rape.
Jersey Deputy and Channel Islands Humanists committee member Louise Doublet commented, ‘At a time when others are imposing sanctions and withdrawing trade from the UAE over its many human rights violations, not least the abuses that have been committed by UAE-backed forces in Yemen, it is unconscionable that the Government of Jersey is considering deepening our relations with this regime.
‘As a humanist, my beliefs are considered a serious crime in the UAE for which I could face imprisonment or even execution. Polling from 2018 suggests that 47 percent of islanders consider themselves to be non-religious, it is hard to see how the population is like-minded to the regime in the UAE. I, and many other proud Jerseyians, feel strongly that if we are to value human rights and respect the rights of minorities, we must call out, and not embrace, states like the UAE.’
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