Statement by Radha Stirling, founder & CEO of Detained in Dubai
“I have been aware of Luisa’s case now since 2015. She was originally accused under new “Cybercrime Laws” of promoting a fundraiser for two children in need of urgent medical care. It is now illegal to promote any kind of charitable activities through any charity that is not registered by the UAE government. This includes all charities outside the country and the simple click of the “like” button on Facebook can be deemed a criminal offence in Dubai. The Cybercrime laws render foreigners at great risk of being charged and Luisa is not the first Briton to fall afoul of these complex laws. They are a serious risk to anyone, tourist or resident, who use social media.
I know Luisa to be a very giving and generous person who has focused on charitable work while living in Dubai. She has a lot of support from residents there and people have been shocked that such a “good person” has been ordered to be deported. It is a great loss to the UAE and such a shame that the new laws are seeing genuinely wonderful people criminalised.
Luisa has been subjected to legal proceedings for almost two years. She won her first hearing and would have remained in Dubai, but the Prosecution appealed and she was sentenced. The nature of the judicial system in the UAE is highly volatile. There is no system of precedent and due to the lack of evidentiary rules, often evidence that can exonerate someone completely is not taken into account. Judges tend to prefer to lean in favour of the Prosecutor’s requests and the system is open to, and subject to, corrupt practices as well as influence from people considered higher in ranking than another party to proceedings. The flaws in the judicial system are the main concern to foreigners who find themselves charged with a crime.
At Detained in Dubai, we are dealing with several cases that truly highlight the fact that the UAE government has invested in infrastructure, buildings, tourism & public relations while completely ignoring a legal system that is in desperate need of a complete overhaul. The system often leaves the UAE subjected to international media outrage at regular injustices including unlawful detentions, ridiculous criminal charges and the abuse of foreign nationals. Their answer so far seems to be to put their Dubai Media body on the job to “cover up” the mess the judiciary creates, rather than to actually review and solve the problems. The abuses now are so common, that we are about to announce a campaign to the UAE government to review cases where corruption and abuse is clearly evidenced. We are also intending to request that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, who are fully aware of these problems, increase the travel warnings to their citizens.
We have many cases, even now, of British Nationals being abused by the process and the UK government needs to confront this issue with their close ally. We have Nico Consari, who has been held in detention at a police station for over a year, without charge. The Judge ordered that he be bailed but the prosecutor doesn’t “feel” like obeying the orders. Where is the FCO? Another British man, Mohamed Haddad, was robbed out of his entire business by a local business partner, via the corrupt legal system. The corruption is physically documented but the FCO has not even raised the fact that the UAE government is systematically breaching their Treaty. This is something that must stop and no amount of financial or military vested interest should be prioritised above the rights of citizens.
Luisa faces serious medical issues and needs an urgent operation before it is too late. The UAE has ordered her deportation but they are happy to take months on end to return her passport. There is no consideration or humanity and many people face similar situations. We encourage the UAE government to facilitate speedily, the return of passports that have been confiscated. They owe a duty of care. If the UAE does not return her passport, and she is denied the urgent medical treatment she needs, they will have effectively sentenced her to death for promoting a charity”.