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UAE committed to promote and protect human rights, Gargash says

The UAE will continue its efforts to promote and protect human rights in line with its national legislation and laws and its international obligations, Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said on Monday.

“The UAE is determined to move forward by building on achievements made in human rights and to continue to make a positive and active contribution to support best global practices in this area,” Dr Gargash told the UN human Rights Council in Geneva. The UAE presented on Monday its report at the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva.

In its report, the UAE said it looks forward to continuing its cooperation with the Human Rights Council, the universal periodic review mechanism and the mandate holders to strengthen and safeguard human rights.

  The UAE will formulate a comprehensive national human rights plan that is in line with international obligations.”

 – Dr Anwar Gargash | Minister of State for Foreign Affairs 

Dr Gargash told the Geneva-based Human Rights Council the UAE voluntarily pledged to promulgate the federal act on domestic violence; continue to engage with the United Nations human rights agencies with a view to ensuring that it receives all necessary support to facilitate the implementation of its programmes and activities, and to take action to comply with its international obligations within the context of those agencies.

National plan

“The UAE also undertakes to formulate a comprehensive national human rights plan that is updated in the light of new developments and is in line with the laws of the state and its international obligations in human rights;” Dr Gargash said.

He added the UAE also undertook to continue its efforts to promote the protection of labour rights through the adoption of the necessary institutional and legislative measures, and to develop legislative and institutional mechanisms to provide greater protection for domestic workers and strengthen their access to effective arbitration mechanisms.

In its third report presented to the UN Human Rights Council, the UAE also pledged to continue its efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly those related to human rights; launch a national plan to raise political awareness and promote a culture of political participation; and establish an independent national human rights commission on the basis of the Paris Principles.

The report also highlighted the country’s challenges and priorities in human rights.

Transparent approach
The UAE takes a transparent and gradualist approach that succeeds in binding its legislative and administrative norms and aligning them with the human rights commitments that the state has made to the international community.

Like other states, the United Arab Emirates faces certain challenges and must establish priorities in the area of human rights in the light of the rapid changes taking place in the world in that regard.

Special attention must be focused on the following:

(a) Strengthening the role of specialised national mechanisms in the area of human rights protection in order to keep abreast with international developments;

(b) Strengthening existing national laws and legislation with a view to further protecting human rights and keeping up with the best global legislative practices in that regard;

(c) Creating a team of specialised human rights officers and providing them with the training they require;

(d) Disseminating a human rights culture to the greatest extent possible and taking steps to entrench that culture in the professional world and in academia,’ the report said.

Dr Gargash, however, reiterated that despite the challenges it faces, the UAE will continue its efforts to promote comprehensive sustainable development by taking action to achieve the goals set forth in Vision 2021, which aims to make the UAE one of the best countries in the world, and in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; its efforts in that regard will no doubt have a significant impact on the human rights situation in the state.

This is how the UAE protects human rights

Civil and political rights

These include recommendations on the death penalty, the prohibition of torture and of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, the prohibition of slavery and human trafficking, freedom of opinion and expression, the administration of justice, the rule of law, freedom of association and the rights of human rights defenders:

Article 26 of the Constitution provides that: “No one shall be subjected to torture or degrading treatment.”

Under Federal Act No. 9 of 1976, concerning juvenile delinquents and vagrants, “capital punishment, imprisonment and financial penalties may not be imposed for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age”.

The legislative authorities have also sought to establish appropriate alternatives to punishment for juveniles, so as to balance punishment with the desire to rehabilitate juveniles and guide them towards a return to normal life. Federal Act No. 9 of 1976 also prohibits bringing a criminal action against a juvenile (child) below the age of 7, and it entitles a judge to adopt measures in lieu of established penalties as he sees fit.

The laws of the UAE uphold the fundamental human rights principles enshrined in international conventions.

The Constitution and the country’s criminal laws prohibit all extrajudicial penalties.

The UAE law guarantees respect for the internationally-recognised rights of those facing the death penalty

The death penalty is handed down within the narrowest of limits for extremely serious crimes or crimes that result in the deaths of other persons, and only on the basis of a fair trial before a judicial body in which a lawyer is present to defend the accused. A death sentence may not be carried out before all means of appeal have been exhausted and a request for amnesty or mercy has been made.

The State has launched a number of initiatives to establish how officials should deal with victims when enforcing the law, expand assistance and welfare programmes for victims, provide guidance and rehabilitation services and ensure that those responsible for human trafficking offences are punished.

The government provides shelters and psychological support for trafficking victims and collaborates with other governments and non-governmental organisations when responding to reports of trafficking cases. Shelter and protection are provided to victims while their papers and documents are prepared.

Victims are returned free of charge by the State to their countries of origin on the basis of their consent under the terms of the country’s victim assistance programme;

In 2013, the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking established a non-governmental fund to support victims of human trafficking.

Economic, social and cultural rights

The UAE has continued to take the necessary legislative and procedural measures to protect workers by implementing policies and strategies that promote labour rights, including but not limited to the introduction of a wage protection system for foreign workers in 2009.

The state has also adopted a policy of transparency with regard to work contracts and had developed standard work contracts that draw on all legal provisions regulating worker-employer relations. Ministerial work permit procedures have been updated: an employer is now required to send a work offer to the worker for his or her review and signature. The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation must then certify the offer before permission can be granted to the employer to proceed.

The state has established an office in the courts to provide legal assistance to workers involved in disputes. Workers’ welfare units have also been established in all regions of the country to protect workers and raise their awareness of their rights. There is also a toll-free 24-hour telephone number for workers that they can call to make complaints and enquiries.

The UAE has enhanced workers’ access to litigation mechanisms by establishing labour departments in many of the country’s courts, by giving priority consideration to labour dispute cases and by exempting those cases from certain fees.

In 2014, the General Women’s Union launched the Domestic Worker Initiative. The initiative, which comprises legal, social and media outreach themes, was implemented by women’s councils, through interactive meetings with relevant institutions and by using social media platforms.

Rights of specific persons or groups

The UAE has continued to strengthen its efforts towards the empowerment of women, gender equality and the elimination of discrimination against women, and has continued its efforts to protect the rights of the child.

The UAE launched the National Strategy for the Empowerment and Advancement of Emirati Women (2015—2021). The strategy provides a general reference and guiding framework for all governmental institutions at the federal and local levels, as well as for private and civil society institutions to facilitate their development of plans and programmes to ensure that women enjoy decent lives and can participate fully in the sustainable development process;

The issuance of a Cabinet decision on December 9, 2014 that mandates the inclusion of women on the governing boards of all government bodies, institutions and companies;

There were 9 women members of the Federal National Council during its 16th legislative session, constituting 22.5 per cent of the Council’s total membership of 40 members;

Emirati women comprise 43 per cent of the workforce and hold 66 per cent of governmental sector positions, including 30 per cent of senior decision-making posts. They also hold 15 per cent of professional posts;

In March 2017, the Cabinet adopted the National Strategy for Motherhood and Childhood and the Strategic Plan for the Promotion of the Rights of Children with Disabilities for the period 2017—2021 with the aim of consolidating and coordinating efforts in the UAE to protect and provide welfare services to children, including children with disabilities, safeguard their rights, and promote their active participation in society on an equal footing with other groups.

Voluntary pledges

Following are the voluntary pledges relating to the candidature of the UAE for membership of the Human Rights Council for the period 2016—2018:

Adoption of the Rights of the Child Act

The UAE has taken appropriate measures and strengthened its national legislation with a view to enhancing and ensuring respect for the rights of persons with disabilities.

Further measures have been taken to enhance protections for workers, including through engagement with workers’ countries of origin, the International Labour Organisation and the Global Forum on Migration and Development, with a view to addressing the issue of recruitment fees, promoting the use of standard employment contracts, granting workers greater scope to work for a different employer, and enforcing implementation of the decree prohibiting the seizure of passports.

The UAE had contributed $4 million to support the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, strengthen efforts to combat that crime and raise awareness of the human trafficking with a view to countering the phenomenon at the global level. The State is providing ongoing support to OHCHR and is exploring the possibility of concluding a memorandum of technical cooperation with that Office.

The UAE continues to provide support on an annual basis to a number of OHCHR funds with a view to facilitating implementation of OHCHR programmes. The state is currently exploring the possibility of signing a memorandum of technical cooperation with the Office with a view to promoting training and capacity-building in the area of human rights. The United Arab Emirates will continue to support UN-Women, including by funding the opening of a liaison office for UN-Women in the UAE.

The UAE will continue to work with partner countries and international organisations to meet international development targets through its foreign aid programme, in areas such as health, education, food security and economic and social development.

Implementation of accepted recommendations

Federal decree-law No. 2 of 2015 on combating discrimination and hatred has been adopted. The 21 articles of the decree-law address hatred, racism and extremism on the basis of religion, origin, race or colour, as well as the penalties imposed for perpetrating those offences.

The UAE has made every effort to establish the foundations of social cohesion, one of the most important of which is the guarantee of religious freedom enshrined in Article 32 of the Constitution.

The Government has facilitated the establishment of places of worship for many religions and sects and granted them land free of charge for the construction of houses of worship. There are dozens of churches and Hindu temples in the country, and Christians and members of other faiths resident in the country enjoy full freedom to practise religious rites and rituals in an atmosphere of tolerance, coexistence and freedom of worship;

The Shams 1 power plant, which complies with the clean development mechanism (CDM), was inaugurated on September 8, 2008. The plant is the first high-density solar power plant established in line with the CDM, and is expected to displace 175,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide gas per year, which is equivalent to planting 105 million trees or removing 20 thousand cars from the roads;

Masdar City, which has established a sustainable residential complex that employs renewable clean energy, carbon management and water conservation, focuses on technology production.

Source: Gulf News

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