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Canada accused of “complicity” if it continues to promote UAE

Canada accused of “complicity” if it continues to promote UAE while citizen remains victim of “rampant human rights abuses”.

Andre Gauthier
Andre Gauthier, before and after his arrest

André Gauthier was extradited from Oman to the UAE on May 30th, roughly a month after attempting to get home to his family, following his 19 month arbitrary detention in Dubai, and over 4 years of legal turmoil. He was jailed in a country notorious for arbitrary detention, wrongful convictions and human rights violations after exposing a gold scandal that saw investors lose tens of millions of dollars. He is set to appear in court on Tuesday, where he will seek bail.

From Oman, André sent Detained in Dubai a video appealing to the Canadian government and Justin Trudeau to diplomatically intervene in what has been yet another example of grave injustice in the Emirates. Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, said “the Emirates is one of the riskiest jurisdictions to conduct business in, to work in, or to invest in. We have contacted business communities in Canada, as well as companies seeking to promote themselves at #Expo2020 to reconsider. Prominent leaders of the Canadian business and investing community have expressed their concerns over André’s case, and are closely monitoring its progress.

“We have seen astonishing cases of abuse in the UAE, despite the country marketing itself to the West as a glamorous and secure place to establish business. The reality is frightening. Like André, many foreigners have found themselves detained without charge or evidence, in a country that is known for grave human rights violations and torture. While several countries have diplomatically intervened to bring their citizens home, some nations have been apprehensive to upset the UAE, given their political, military and trade alliances. This apprehension, has caused the UAE to become increasingly risky to individuals in the country who are shocked at their government’s lack of diligence when one of their own citizens is subject to abuse.

“Canada’s foreign minister has expressed that they are in discussions with their UAE counterpart over André’s freedom, and they are committed to bring him home, rather than the usual consular approach of simply observing a foreign judicial system. This kind of intervention is necessary when there is a clear case of injustice. When I spoke with André, he explained that he originally trusted the UAE to be a modern and safe place to work in, but had lost faith in the justice system. The court’s own expert report had exonerated him, but it seemed like other extrajudicial forces were keeping him detained.”

Canadian consular staff have said that they will try to attend the hearing on Tuesday but André’s son Alexis has said that is “simply not good enough. The Canadian government has been ‘observing’ the case all along, during my father’s almost two years in prison. They did nothing to bring him home, all the while promoting Canada as a country who cares about human rights.”

André’s family has been told that legal fees will be almost $200,000 (more), money that the family simple does not have. André’s lawyer advised family that most law firms would charge upwards of $400,000. It is likely therefore, that André will be completely unrepresented at Tuesday’s hearing.

“Justin Trudeau and the Minister Freeland are fully aware of the case but more urgent action is needed. It is absurd that the the Malaysian foreign minister flew to the UAE and brought their own citizen home, while a country like Canada has taken years to do anything” Radha Stirling commented. “It’s outrageous and irresponsible that Canada is promoting the UAE to businesses and investors. This needs to stop immediately or it could be seen as a form of complicity when more Canadians become victims of the gulf nation’s rampant human rights abuses; and they will.

“While Canada’s travel warnings state citizens could be held for lengthy periods without access to legal counsel or consular officials, they do not explain the severity and frequency of abuse, and fail to mention that citizens could be subjected to grave human rights violations and torture. The government simultaneously promotes the UAE’s trade expos which is a source of more victims for the country. Many investors and expats have been arrested as a way to extort them or steal their businesses. As in André’s case, they can also be victims of scapegoating, where a false accusation is made against someone, in order to distract attention from the true perpetrator(s). Many locals who are more familiar with the lack of due process, see foreigners as prey to expand their money and influence in the region, whether or not that results in the ruin of their victim’s life. What is certain, is that without Canada’s intervention in this case, André will be counted as the next victim of this prevalent practice”.

Detained in Dubai, an organisation focussed on victims of injustice in the UAE and the wider gulf, has urged the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s foreign minister, and the Ruler of Dubai to review André Gauthier’s case, saying “In situations where clear evidence has exonerated an individual, the UAE needs to recognise the system is not flawless and work to resolve the matters on an individual basis, as well as seeking to prevent such injustices in the future”.

Canadian MP Richard Martel added, “we continue to work on the case but the reality at this point is that the government needs to take direct and immediate action. We will keep pressing them to do that.” 

Richard Martel, MP has been outspoken on the matter and called on the cabinet to take more urgent and immediate steps to protect André Gauthier from further abuse. While the Minister has assured him that they are taking such steps, no effective solution has yet been secured.

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