Australian-British National in detention, without charge, for supporting a US Charity, even though h
Scott Richards, an Australian-British national, residing in Dubai and working as an economic development advisor, is one of few to be arrested under new 2015 UAE laws that prohibit promoting non UAE registered charities. The law is only one year old and most people are not aware of its existence, though does not believe that he is in breach of the law at all!
When a new law is enacted that could easily lead to the arrest of the average person, the government needs to take responsibility to educate the general public and should regularly publish information on laws that are likely to get people into trouble. This would include the charity laws, social media laws etc. If the government had properly educated the public (and law enforcement), Scott would not be in prison right now. There is an obligation to protect citizens and residents from (preventable) detention. Further, the government needs to educate its law enforcers. This case is a clear indication that the law enforcers themselves, are not entirely sure how to apply it in situations that seem grey to them. Scott is in prison awaiting a Court date for helping to clothe, home, and feed young children and women victims of conflict in Afghanistan.
Mr Richards was working tirelessly at Camp Qambar, Afghanistan coordinating the logistics of distributing UN-standard tarpaulins in a bid to avert a growing humanitarian crisis before being arrested at his home in Dubai on 28th July. The local police have conveyed that he was being arrested on suspicion of running foul of Dubai’s new Charity Laws, recommending it via social media and Facebook.
The father of two, is moving into his 3rd week of incarceration at the notorious Al Murraqabat Police Station. He was denied bail on 3 separate occasions, despite being a long term resident with no previous issues. There have been no formal charges and has been denied access to legal representation.
Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai said in a statement “holding an Australian/British National in detention for weeks without charge, is a breach of international human rights standards. It can be months before he is officially charged, and a court date will only be assigned once they agree to Prosecute. The courts are congested now and lengthy delays are to expected. If he is not given bail in the mean time, he could be arbitrarily detained for a very long time.
The decision as to whether to grant bail is random. Some people are lucky enough to be granted bail, while others remain in these conditions for months on end, even though they are being investigated for the same alleged crime. The Embassies will only be able to offer limited assistance in this matter, basically just checking on whether his health is suffering”.
Scott has been allowed limited access to the telephone. He has been desperate for bail or at least, a change in the conditions of his detention. The conditions at Al Murraqabat are appalling. Radha Stirling reports “We had a client last month who was detained in the exact same place as Scott, who was begging to either change to a different location or speed up his release. He complained that his medical needs were not taken care of, the sleeping conditions were over crowded and he did not have a mattress or blanket. This man was horrified and was only in custody for 7 days. Given that Lee Bradley Brown, a British National, died in custody (allegedly) due to police brutality, Scott’s family and friends are extremely concerned for his safety and care.
This detention should be a wakeup call to expats in the UAE. It is more common than not, that expats have spent some time in prison or in police custody over the pettiest of accusations. The UAE needs to stop unnecessary detentions, especially without charge. Unless the person is a serious risk to society, they should always be granted bail. This would certainly help with their overpopulated facilities. Human rights need to be a priority in the UAE. UAE ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was interviewed by the BBC in respect of arbitrary detentions and human rights. He responded that they would “try to change”. We certainly welcome action, though so far have noticed no change:
Scott Richards was passionately involved in helping the hidden victims of the global conflict which Afghanistan is embroiled in, ordinary young children, infants and women live exposed to brutal elements; living in squalor - ankle deep mud that turns to sleet ice at night. Scott connected "The Keep Qambar Camp Warm" (US registered charity) campaign in helping distribute desperately needed tarpaulin to shield the many in need from elements. The work that Scott performed fell outside of the charity laws. IACAD draws a distinction in terms of “volunteering” and have confirmed that pro bono advice and other voluntary acts would not be covered by the Fundraising Decree. Scott Richards was not raising funds and should never have been arrested. It is advisable to coordinate publicised voluntary work through a local government body such as the Community Development Authority.
For this compassionate selfless act, Mr Richards, will be spending his upcoming wedding anniversary in prison, separated from his wife and two children.
We hope that in the event that Scott is charged, the Prosecuting Judge will grant him bail throughout proceedings. However, in a recent case of British Nationals who were arrested for their hobby of “planespotting”, were held in Abu Dhabi for over four months, without charge, before being released/acquitted. We call on the leaders of the UAE to put an end to human rights abuses that are damaging the credibility of the nation.
Radha Stirling, founder, Detained in Dubai, call +44 7050 686 745 or via Skype at Radha.Stirling. Further info: www.detainedindubai.org