Migrant workers were exploited and abused. Cases of torture and prolonged detention without trial were reported. Women continued to face legal and other discrimination. Access to certain websites was blocked. The authorities began to address the cases of stateless persons, or bidoun. One person was executed.
Migrant workers’ rights
Cases were reported of debt bondage and ill-treatment of domestic workers, and of deaths of construction workers due to unsafe conditions in places of work and residence. Some migrant workers said that government obstacles inhibited them from lodging complaints against abusive employers, including state bodies.
Some protests by migrant workers against non-payment of wages, low pay and poor housing and other conditions caused damage to property and resulted in arrests and prosecutions.
In October, the government announced that it was creating an agency to monitor migrant workers’ complaints and mediate labour disputes.
"the authorities broke up a peaceful gathering intended to show solidarity with the people of Gaza."
- In February, a Dubai court sentenced about 45 Indian construction workers to six months’ imprisonment followed by deportation in connection with protests in 2007.
- In March, 30 people were arrested after around 1,500 labourers in Sharjah held protests demanding higher wages.
- In July, over 3,000 mainly Indian workers in Ras al-Khaimah were detained after protesting about the poor quality of their food; some were charged with arson and rioting.
Arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment
At least 20 people were arrested in Khor Fakkan in October in pre-dawn raids, and then detained incommunicado and denied access to lawyers. Some were reported to have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated.
- Two Pakistani brothers were reported to have been detained in October and tortured, including with electric shocks.
Counter-terror and security
- ‘Abdullah al-Hamiri, a UAE national held at the US military base in Guantánamo Bay, was returned to the UAE in July. He was detained and remained held at the end of the year.
- In December, US citizen Naji Hamdan was transferred to prison following months of incommunicado detention by Amn al-Dawla (State Security) officials in Abu Dhabi, during which he was said to have been tortured. His lawyers in the USA and his family believe that his arrest may have been requested by the US authorities.
Freedom of expression and association
In June the authorities announced plans to end prison sentences relating to journalism. A draft Press Code circulated in December would institute heavy fines for “insulting” specific members of government. The authorities blocked access to several websites considered critical of the UAE or because they were considered a threat to public morality.
- Some 70-80 male teachers who had been transferred to other state jobs in November 2007 apparently because of their suspected Islamist views were not permitted to return to teaching. Many of their wives, who also worked in schools, were reported to have faced discrimination and been denied pay increases by the Ministry of Education.
- On 31 December the authorities broke up a peaceful gathering intended to show solidarity with the people of Gaza. Permits are required for demonstrations but are rarely granted. One person was detained.
Discrimination and violence against women
Women continued to face legal and other discrimination.
- A woman, a UAE national, who married a foreign national abroad without her family’s permission was detained for eight months when she returned to the UAE in November 2007, ill-treated in prison, and threatened with prosecution for adultery, a capital offence. She was then returned to a relative and eventually left the UAE.
Discrimination – bidoun
In April the authorities announced they had set up a body to register the thousands of bidoun in the country who do not have the identity papers that are required to access employment and state benefits.
In December, following an assessment of the human rights situation in the UAE by the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, the government agreed to accede to the UN Convention against Torture; invite the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, to visit the country; and address allegations of discriminatory treatment of migrant workers. The government rejected recommendations to implement a moratorium on the use of the death penalty; repeal legislation providing for corporal punishment; allow collective bargaining and the right to strike; and introduce legislation that would prohibit discrimination and ensure gender equality.
One man was executed in February in Ras al-Khaimah for murder.
In December the UAE abstained on a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions.