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UAE-Turkey Bilateral Agreements Raise Concerns Over Human Rights

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Human rights concerns over possible persecutive extradition requests from the UAE to Turkey

The UAE and Turkey have recently entered into multiple bilateral agreements, ranging from extradition and energy cooperation to space and defence collaborations. The two countries have also signed deals valued at over $50 billion, which comes at a crucial time for Turkey, as its currency, the Lira, faces significant devaluation, and the country grapples with soaring inflation.

The agreements not only provide a boost to Turkey's economy but also mark a significant improvement in Turkey's relations with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt. Over the years, there had been tensions, particularly during the Gulf boycott of Qatar. However, now there seems to be a concerted effort to mend ties and foster cooperation among these nations. But, CEO of Due Process International, Radha Stirling, warns Turkey’s cooperation with the UAE puts foreigners at risk in the country.

Stirling has raised concerns about the expanded influence of the UAE, which could have implications for individuals within Turkey. Emirati or foreign nationals present in Turkey may find themselves in danger if they are wanted by UAE authorities or deemed otherwise problematic by Abu Dhabi. “There is a possibility of summary extradition without due process, and the risk of facing severe human rights abuses upon returning to the UAE,” Stirling said.

Prior to Turkish President Erdogan's visit to the UAE, Turkey had already taken steps to restore its relationship with Egypt. In this context, fifty alleged members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, who had sought refuge in Turkey, were arrested and some were deported to Egypt, where they potentially face the death penalty. These individuals had fled Egypt following the military coup in 2012 and were living in exile in Turkey to escape the crackdown on opposition by the new government.

The Turkish government has cautioned Egyptians residing in Turkey against denigrating the government of Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi and criticising his regime. This approach is likely to be extended to the UAE, and non-Turkish citizens with ongoing court cases in the Emirates or those who openly criticise Abu Dhabi may face crackdowns by Ankara.

Stirling has pointed out that diplomatic and financial relations with the UAE, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia seem to force Turkey to silence critics of these countries and their governments. “Moreover,” she explained, “Anyone convicted or suspected by those governments of violations may face extradition from Turkey without necessarily receiving a fair trial. Turkey, has faced criticism for its treatment of opposition and dissent within its own borders, but offered refuge to those escaping persecution in Egypt and the GCC. However, with improved relations, Turkey is now seemingly willing to revoke that protection, putting thousands foreign nationals at risk.

This includes Westerners who may be simply transiting through Turkey but have a legal case in the UAE, as they could also be subject to arrest and extradition. Through these agreements, the UAE is expanding its de facto jurisdiction, which further limits the number of countries where foreign nationals can feel safe from the UAE's reach.”

Foreign nationals currently residing in Turkey or who have plans to visit or transit through the country, would be advised to seek guidance from Due Process International (DPI) immediately; particularly if they are aware of any ongoing court cases in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, or Egypt. Under the new agreements, detention and deportation would likely occur very rapidly, without the involvement of Interpol. “We would expect the deportation process to be quick and without recourse to appeal,” she said, “Foreign nationals should also be aware that convictions in absentia are routine in the Emirates, in Egypt, and in Saudi Arabia; and they may not even be aware that they have been charged, tried, and sentenced until they get detained by the authorities.”

By consulting with Due Process International, Stirling and her team can evaluate clients’ specific risks, conduct thorough police checks, and take essential steps to ensure their safety and protect their rights.

Turkey is still a popular destination despite its current economic woes, and it is a major transit hub and meeting point for many international business people and investors,” she explained, “Because of these new agreements, however, Turkey may also become a portal for instant deportation to the UAE, without due process, without trial, and without recourse, if an individual has somehow run afoul of the Emirates government, or even been involved in a civil dispute with someone inside the UAE. Furthermore, just as we caution tourists not to say anything online that might make them vulnerable to prosecution under the Emirates’ vague cybercrime laws while they are in the UAE; we must now extend that warning to anyone inside Turkey as well. A person can literally be criminally charged in the UAE for leaving a bad review of a local business, and now it seems they would be just as vulnerable to arrest in Istanbul as in Dubai.”


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