Jamie Harron has been stuck in Dubai for over 5 months, following allegations of brushing past a German man in a crowded bar. Neuman & Esser’s Managing Director Mr Emad Tabaza accused Jamie of “indecent behaviour” and a “rude gesture”. On someone’s word in the UAE, police will arrest and prosecute. Harron has been waiting for almost half a year for a court hearing and faces years in prison if found guilty.
The case has caused international outrage, directed at the German company who have received death threats, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the United Arab Emirates. Social media trending hashtags have included #BoycottDubai #JamieHarron and #FireEmadTabaza. Some twitter users have shared the contact details of the German corporation and asked people to contact them. This case, along with Billy Barclay’s have resulted in a public relations nightmare for the UAE.
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai and Due Process International said “we have received at least 50 or 60 telephone calls from members of the public in the past week, telling us that they have cancelled their holiday to Dubai”.
The UK’s FCO has come under fire for failing to warn British nationals of the dangers of visiting Dubai and for providing “no support whatsoever’. Scotsman David Ballantine was appalled that he was forced to stay in Dubai without his passport for 2 years over a false allegation of not paying a £2.00 cab fare. He was legally not allowed to work and faced homelessness. “The government didn’t help me. They just gave me a list of lawyers and were on their way.” Ballantine, like most citizens who run into legal problems in Dubai, feel that the FCO has let them down. A class action is being formed to ensure that the UK puts in place adequate changes in their policies. The UAE has breached their treaty with the UK in relation to commercial proceedings; the UK is aware of the breaches but have chosen not to enforce the treaty, and have chosen not to increase warnings to citizens.
Detained in Dubai has previously requested the travel warnings be updated but it seemed that they were more focussed on their trade agreements and diplomatic relations with the Arab nation. British Ambassador to the UAE, Philip Parham has responded to the recent criticism by attempting to discharge all responsibility and liability.
A Detained in Dubai staff member later added on behalf of Stirling, “We are glad to see Mr Parham the UK Ambassador to the UAE today issuing a special notice on the UAE and their roles and responsibilities there. However, the fact that the Ambassador has felt the need to take such an unprecedented step singling out the UAE is merely evidence of the unacceptable and critical nature of the continued abuse by the UAE of British citizens, such an abuse that has led to the death and torture of British citizens in UAE jails at the hands of the UAE authorities. Abuse which must stop now and which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Mr Parham must act upon.
"Whilst no country can nor should expect another to change its rules of its citizens, one should be able to expect that the UAE follows its own rules, including in the case of the UAE the United Nations Universal Declaration on human rights. The Ambassador notes that they will hold to account the UAE when in fact, it does not.
"In many cases they do not do so and the British Embassy often does not hold them to account. The FCO and Embassy also do nothing about it.
"This unusual step also brings into the spotlight the growing trend of retired British High Court Judges such as Justice Sir David Steel, Justice Sir Andrew Smith and Sir Jeremey Cooke to sit in the UAE courts often hearing cases against Brits in the case of Justice Smith sitting on the UK and UAE courts at the same time. Whist our very own high Court refuses to extradite Brits to the UAE on fears of torture, unfair trials and murder. An urgent review is required of our relationship with the UAE and its courts.”
Billy Barclay, the Edinburgh man who was recently released told us that the embassy was advising the family against campaigning for his release. In fact, it was only as a result of the campaign lead by Radha Stirling, that he is home today.
Stirling commented, “It is our feeling that the FCO is working too strongly in cooperation with the UAE government, to the extent that the UK seems to be an extension of their highly controlled Dubai Media Office. I am sure that Philip Parham is being treated as a VIP within the country and wishes to continue to be treated in this manner. The UK is putting arms and trade deals before the safety of their own citizens. Jamie has not received the kind of support that would be reasonable. The UK had not intervened in this case before but certainly should be now.
"Jamie faces an additional charge of a “rude gesture” that does not even have a court hearing scheduled. He could be there for months awaiting trial, even if found innocent. He can not work there, he has no visa. If convicted, he faces years in a prison that is notorious for human rights violations and torture. I have even seen a death of a British national in custody.
"Jamie’s parents want to visit him during this difficult time. I have advised them that they are at risk of being charged under the UAE’s Cybercrime Laws for speaking negatively about the regime and that the coverage of this case should offer them some protection but technically, they could be jailed for this crime. We have dealt with a number of charges under the cybercrime laws. Expats and travellers are at extreme risk because of their social media. The FCO does not warn people that just about ALL visitors to the UAE will be in breach of social media laws and could be arrested if someone makes a complaint about them.
"Essam Al Tamimi from Al Tamimi law firm has said that the laws and process in the UAE need serious review. The process is rife with corruption & legal abuse, the legislation itself is messy and needs re-drafting but before any of that, it needs a strategy and vision. I welcome to work with people who have this vision for the country; that is, to make the criminal and civil justice system safe and effective for all."