The UK government is happy to ignore terrible human rights abuses by regimes like the UAE, writes Matthew Hedges, who was imprisoned there
Matthew Hedges, who was accused of spying by the UAE, and his wife Daniela Tejada. Photograph: Daniela Tejada/EPA
Published onWed 13 May 2020 17.46 BST
The decision by the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, to call the UAE “true friends” and “valued partners” in a tweet thanking them for donating PPE has been especially difficult for people like me to read. I was detained in the UAE for almost seven months in solitary confinement, falsely accused of spying on behalf of the British government who did very little to help get me released.
I am not the only British citizen who suffered at the hands of the UAE: Ali Ahmad was tortured for wearing the Qatar flag on a T-shirt during an international football tournament, and Ryan Cornelius remains in unsanitary conditions in a cell in the UAE, having his term extended a further 20 years despite serving a full 10 years. These are not what I would consider the actions of a “true friend”.
It is also concerning that despite the UAE being clearly in opposition to the UK’s goals in the conflicts in Libya and Yemen, the foreign secretary thinks that the UAE are valued partners who share the same diplomatic interests.
It seems that not only does the UK government not value British lives abroad, it is happy to ignore terrible human rights abuses by regimes like the UAE, in order to deflect from its own failings during a global pandemic.
Perhaps the foreign secretary should push for arbitrarily detained British citizens to be released in the UAE and for a de-escalation in Libya and Yemen before choosing to thank the UAE so thoughtlessly.