The BBC Programme has gone out of its way to promote Dubai to tourists and investors in spite of serious human rights violations and torture against British citizens and while MP’s call on increased travel warnings to nationals after declaring the UAE “unsafe”.
Radha Stirling, founder of 14 year old human rights organisation Detained in Dubai sheds light on the issue, “Inside Dubai is a representation of every marketing endeavour made by the UAE to lure investment and tourism dollars from the UK over recent decades, and while the programme portrays Dubai as a playground for the rich, it fails to balance that against the very real risks posed to investors and visitors. In fact, the super wealthy have been targeted by experienced locals and even royals over the years with many of them jailed so that their bank accounts and holdings can be looted by Sheikhs and Emiratis who have seen them as fair game.
Throughout the series, we hear the message ‘you must be respectful of the laws and culture and you will thrive’. Tourists have time and time again fallen foul of a system that jails foreigners who are the victims of wrongful accusations. Even where there is no evidence of their crimes, they are convicted through a system where evidence is irrelevant and trials last 15 minutes. This is not about ‘obeying the laws’ or ‘respecting the culture’ but about systemic forced confessions, wrongful imprisonments and grave human rights violations. Baroness Whitaker has advised the Foreign Office to increase travel warnings, noting the UAE is ‘unsafe to British citizens’ even when following the letter of the law.
Over 14 years, we have helped more than 17,000 victims of injustice, where many of them have been forced to confess to crimes they haven’t committed and only after suffering lengthy detention, have they been exonerated. A selection of MP’s have called for increased travel warnings to British citizens and the European Parliament voted to boycott Dubai’s Expo over serious human rights concerns. Meanwhile, the UAE has invested significant funds into lobbying British politicians, think tanks and influential journalists to promote their image. This BBC programme appears to be their latest successful endeavour and will undoubtedly lead to further human rights violations against British citizens.”
Over the years, Detained in Dubai has highlighted numerous cases of injustice to the media. Jamie Harron was arrested after accidentally brushing past a man at a busy bar, Billy Barclay for a counterfeit £20 note, Laleh Shahravesh over a private Facebook post made from within the United Kingdom, but countless others have been falsely accused of a crimes, forced to confess and detained in the country. The motivation behind these egregious situations is vast and varied, including everything from extortion attempts to fraud or simple spite.
Affluent investors have found themselves the targets of complex frauds by local businessmen, trade partners and Sheikhs who have the ‘wasta’ to misuse police and courts for the purpose of apprehending their victims’ cash and assets, with no regard whatsoever for their victim who has usually been conveniently jailed.
Billy Hood, a young footballer was jailed over CBD vape oil that was left in his car by a visiting friend. He now faces ten years in prison over a crime he did not commit. His mother, Breda Guckion, has told of the pain she experienced, knowing that she encouraged him to go to Dubai. “I had no idea that someone like Billy, whose drug tests returned negative, could end up in prison for as long as he has. They forced him to confess, tasered and beat him. How can a series promote the country to British citizens in the midst of what is going on with Billy? Billy has been begging to be seen by a doctor but nobody is helping him. Then, I switch on the tv and see this series glorifying Dubai. It’s absurd. They keep saying ‘if you follow the rules you will be ok’ but we know full well that this is the lie that Dubai has perpetuated for years. It’s why Billy went there, because of these same lies”.
Gulf in Justice Podcast with Billy Hood and Albert Douglas's families:
Albert Douglas, a British grandfather, is currently in prison over a bounced cheque that has been forensically proven, he did not write. His son Wolfgang was disappointed the series would cause more people to end up in the same situation as his dad, “My father was targeted because he was perceived as wealthy. He drove Rolls Royces and had a successful business. He was seen as a target by locals and expats who wanted to milk him dry, assuring him he will remain in prison until he pays. This is just plain extortion but it happens all the time. We even had a Sheikh ask us for hundreds of thousands of pounds for his freedom, but they just take the money. There are dozens of fraudsters waiting outside of police stations to prey on people like my father and the police are cashing in too. It’s completely corrupt.
“My father loved Dubai, that is, until he was falsely arrested, beaten and tortured by prison guards and convicted of writing a cheque he never wrote. My father has had to undergo surgery for his broken bones, caused by prison guards. He has multiple surgeries still to go and we are desperate for him to return to the UK so he can be cared for locally. It’s outrageous that Sheikh Mohammed was asking my father to make a fake propaganda video saying ‘Dubai prison is good’, but that is exactly what Inside Dubai is, a propaganda video.”
“Sheikh Mohammed has been a controversial figure in recent years”, reflected Ms Stirling, “Princess Latifa’s escape, attacking a US yacht in international waters, hacking lawyers and journalists, organisations and royals, kidnapping Shamsa, the high profile divorce proceedings with Princess Haya and the memorable allegations of torture and abuse has tainted our perceptions of the Dubai ruler. Inside Dubai characters portray how loved and admired he is, showing off three of his books and talking about what a brilliant ruler he is.
“The local culture is portrayed throughout as supporting women’s rights, highlighting female achievements but does nothing to cover the many Emirati women who have fled the country including the ruler's own daughters who were covered in the BBC’s ‘Escape from Dubai’, testifying that they were ‘locked up’ with no rights. The fact is, male guardianship still exists in the UAE and many expats have fallen foul of them when spouses vindictively exploit Sharia based laws.
“The UAE has clearly sanctioned this programme, as they have with Housewives of Dubai. Sheikh Mohammed needed to repair his reputation and the city needed to attract more income. Inside Dubai is a perfect public relations stunt but unfortunately, without that balance, British citizens will continue to be lured into a false sense of security that they are safe ‘so long as you follow the law’.
“The UAE has invested significant lobbying into the UK. This has included politicians, influential journalists, policy centres and one of their targets has been the BBC.
“While the show will be entertaining for many, there should be some sensitivity towards viewers who have been unfairly imprisoned, tortured and even killed in Dubai custody. The Inquest into the death of Lee Bradley Brown is scheduled in the coming months and sadly, Robyn Berlin died last year after giving up hope of ever being allowed to leave the UAE. It was alleged the former Grenadier Guardsman died of dehydration when trying to flee the country. There is an Inquest into his death this year. Albert Douglas is still living in prison with fractured bones and families are dying to have their loved ones returned to them.
“There needs to be discussion over the sense of responsibility that production agencies have. There is no doubt that shows like these will encourage people to move to or visit Dubai and there is no doubt that human rights violations will continue to occur.”
The UAE welcomes foreign capital, it lures investors, but provides no protections, no systemic safeguards, and enthusiastically colludes with locals to divest foreigners of their rights. It is time for investors to learn the lesson that, if you are a foreigner, success in the UAE only makes you more vulnerable.
Detained in Dubai have dealt with innumerable cases over the past decade and some of the public ones have included; Australians Matt Joyce and Marcus Lee, British citizens Safi Qarashi and Mohammed Haddad, Canadian André Gauthier, Reda Boulahdid, Michael Smith, and Ryan Cornelius, The sheer number is concerning and should be a red alert to the business and investment community whom we are strongly discouraging from continuing to bring their skills, resources and capital to the UAE as long as the business culture and legal environment remains so disastrously risky.
Detained in Dubai: http://www.detainedindubai.org
Radha Stirling: http:///www.radhastirling.com
Due Process International: http://www.dueprocess.international