One of the main ways a government can prove its commitment to Human Rights and the Rule of Law, is by providing independent avenues for redress of grievances; even if that simply means keeping informational channels open for people to find resources for support.
It has come to our attention that the government of the United Arab Emirates has blocked access to the Detained in Dubai website within the country, and has even blocked the website of my private legal practice. This is a severely reactionary measure, and indicates a very negative direction for the UAE.
No government, no legal process, is without flaws. Irregularities, mistakes, and violations can occur under any system. And as long as that system allows for scrutiny, criticism, and intervention, we can treat these occurrences as aberrations which both those within and outside of the system hope to correct and prevent. However, when the government takes steps to limit critique, hinder intervention, and block the avenues of support for those who have suffered when irregularities occur, it begins to appear that we are not talking about aberrations anymore, but systemic practices which the government actually aims to uphold in defiance of criticism.
Detained in Dubai has been not only a valuable source of information for expats in the UAE; helping them understand the society and culture of the Emirates and their legal rights within the UAE legal system; it has in fact, provided vital support for detainees who do not have anywhere else to turn to for advice, advocacy, and intervention. Blocking the website closes the door to this resource for the family and loved ones of detainees living in the UAE. Now, when a prisoner's desperate relative living in the Emirates searches online for legal help, they will only find local lawyers and government-controlled Human Rights organisations, people and institutions deeply connected to, and invested in, the very system they feel is violating their loved one's rights, freedom, and safety.
Blocking the website of my private practice, which specialises in UAE law, but which is by no means dedicated to UAE issues, further restricts residents in the Emirates from accessing qualified, independent legal advice and representation.
All of the work of Detained in Dubai is focused on preventing abuse and wrongful detention, and ensuring that the rights of accused persons in the UAE are upheld; it is fundamentally a tool for improving legal standards and practices in the Emirates. If the UAE government shares the dedication to these priorities, blocking access to our websites certainly indicates otherwise.