Britons accuse UAE of torture before U.N. committee

·2-min read
United Nations in New York City

By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) - Two British men who had been detained in the United Arab Emirates gave evidence before a U.N. committee on torture on Tuesday, with one saying he was subjected to solitary confinement and the other abuse with an electric shock baton.

The UAE rejects the allegations.

Matthew Hedges and Ali Issa Ahmad testified before the Geneva-based committee on Tuesday in a rare public example of allegations of torture against the Gulf State. The committee is also reviewing other countries' records.

"I was held in solitary confinement nearly 7 months in a windowless room, no bed, no contact with the outside world and vulnerable to the whims of my interrogators," Hedges, an academic who visited the UAE for a research trip in 2018, told the committee. He was accused of spying.

Ahmad said he was tortured with the baton "for wearing a Qatar T-shirt" while visiting the UAE on holiday to watch a football tournament in 2019 -- a time of diplomatic tensions between the two neighbours. "I lost my front tooth and still have scars on my body from it," he said.

Ahmad said he was detained nearly four weeks and was charged with wasting police time and inflicting his own wounds. Both men deny any wrongdoing.

The UAE, which has yet to speak before the committee, said it rejected the allegations as "baseless and unfounded" in emailed comments to Reuters ahead of the men's testimony, the broad substance of which was flagged in advance in documents to the committee.

It said it would respond in detail to the allegations as part of the hearings "with documentary evidence that rebuts their false claims".

"At all times, the UAE and its officials treated Mr Hedges and Mr Ahmad with respect, and not once did it subject either to any torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment," it said.

The UAE ratified the 1984 U.N. Convention against Torture in 2012 and as such its record in complying with its terms is periodically subject to review by the committee which is composed of 10 independent experts.

The committee is expected to release its findings later this month. The body has no enforcement mechanism but can follow up with non-compliant states. Both men now live in Britain.

(Reporting by Emma Farge in Geneva and Aziz El Yaakoubi in Riyadh; Editing by Alison Williams)

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting