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British veteran’s wrongful detention in UAE challenged at the United Nations

Andy Neal, British verterán and PSTD sufferer detained in UAE

British veteran Andrew Neal has been held in UAE without evidence for 7 months, Detained in Dubai has instructed Guernica International Justice Chambers as lead counsel to petition the United Nations High Commissioner, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to push for his immediate release

British citizen and 20 year veteran Andrew Neal was arrested in Dubai on October 4th because police had detained a suspected drug user who then supposedly identified Andy as his dealer. A search of Andy, his car and apartment produced no evidence of drugs, and a blood test showed no drugs in Andy’s system. Analysis of phone records revealed no connection between Andy and the 17 other suspects arrested in the same case; in fact, messages were discovered on other suspects’ phones that directly implicated a different individual as the drug dealer the police were seeking. Andy’s original accuser later denied ever having implicated Andy, and his accusation was retracted. Despite having no evidence connecting Andy to drugs, and despite possessing proof of the actual guilty party, police have continued to detain Andy, even transferring him to a maximum security facility in Abu Dhabi pending further review of his case.

Detained in Dubai are representing Andrew Neal and have instructed Guernica International Justice Chambers as lead counsel on his behalf to petition the United Nations seeking his immediate release.

Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, issued the following statement:

“Andy Neal is a committed husband and father, a man who served his country overseas for decades; he has been diagnosed with PTSD after years of service in the world’s most horrific conflict zones. His treatment by the UAE is disgraceful. Andy and his family’s lives have been turned upside-down because the Dubai police and Public Prosecutor cannot admit that his arrest was a mistake from the beginning.

“If an arrested suspect levels an accusation against someone, police are supposed to investigate that allegation before making an arrest. In Andy’s case, they arrested first, and investigated later; and even though that investigation proved his innocence, they continue to hold Andy without justification; transferring his case to Abu Dhabi because they refuse to take responsibility for their incompetence. Andy’s incarceration is the very definition of arbitrary detention, and the gross mistreatment he has suffered at the hands of UAE authorities, particularly in light of his PTSD diagnosis, is the definition of inhumane and degrading.

“After weeks of appealing by his family to the Dubai government for psychiatric treatment for Andy’s condition; the authorities sent a “psychiatrist” who cruelly told Andy that his PTSD was all in his head, and used the visit to try to coerce Andy into making a false confession. This constitutes severe mental and psychological abuse. Andy is an innocent man, suffering a very real emotional condition that is only being exacerbated by the unbearable distress of his unjustified detention and isolation from his family and loved ones.

“The British government has conspicuously failed to stand up for Andy, though he risked his life to stand up for the United Kingdom for over 20 years. The FCO has provided no support for him and his family, and the Foreign Secretary has been silent. In these circumstances, Andy’s only recourse is to the United Nations.

“It is outrageous that mere accusation is sufficient in the United Arab Emirates for someone to be treated as guilty; and even more outrageous that proof of innocence can be blatantly disregarded just to protect the professional reputations of those in law enforcement, when a man’s life and freedom are on the line.”

Press Statement of Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers

GENEVA, 27 April 2019 – Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers has today filed an Urgent Communication with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, on behalf of Mr. Andrew Neal, a British citizen who is currently being detained in Dubai since 4 October 2018. Guernica 37 has requested that the that the UN human rights experts visits the former British Soldier in prison and urgently seeks his release from custody and a dismissal of the charges.

Former British Soldier, Andy Neal, a veteran of twenty-four years in the British Army who has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following tours of duty in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia, has been detained in the United Arab Emirates since October 2018 on allegations of drug offences.

There is no evidence linking the Petitioner to the allegations with the only witness to have implicated him having recanted his statement and the authorities relying on a confession that is alleged to have been obtained through coercion and in a language that the Petitioner does not understand.

Given the lack of evidence supporting any allegations against the Petitioner, it is submitted that his detention breaches the norms of international law concerning deprivation of liberty and a ruling is sought from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

Mr. Neal was arrested in October 2018 for allegedly having been concerned in the supply of prohibited narcotics. He was one of seventeen individuals to be arrested during a sting operation.

Mr. Neal moved to Dubai in 2015 with his wife and two young children. On returning home from work last year, he was confronted by seven CID Officers purporting to have an arrest warrant to search Mr. Neal and his apartment. During the search it is alleged that Officers assaulted him by punching him and pinning him against the wall. He was told if he did not cooperate, he would be jailed for 10 years and his children, who were only 2 years old and 6 years old at the time, would be taken into custody. Mr Neal’s wife and the family nanny were present during the search and prevented from moving or speaking to anybody. Officers did not find anything in Mr Neal’s apartment linking him to the sale of narcotics.

Mr. Neal was then taken to an apartment belonging to a Dutch national. When police entered the apartment, the Dutch national and a woman were found to be in possession of narcotics. Mr. Neal and the two other individuals, who he had not met before, were taken to Al Barsha Police Station, an overcrowded facility criticised for its harsh conditions.

During an interrogation that lasted for seventeen hours, Mr. Neal was handcuffed to a chair, denied food and refused access to a toilet. He was then told that somebody had informed police that he had sold them drugs. All blood tests to detect the presence of drugs in Mr Neal’s system came back with negative readings.

Following questioning, Mr. Neal was forced to sign a document, written in Arabic, which he was assured was a translation of his statement. He later discovered that the document he had signed was in fact a false confession in which he had admitted to having purchased drugs from the Dutch national and sold them to a Canadian national of Pakistani origin named “Ahmed”.

Mr. Neal protested his innocence during interrogation including when questioned by the Public Prosecutor. He continued to reiterate that the confession given in evidence was fabricated. On 23 January 2019, a meeting was arranged by the Public Prosecutor to afford Mr. Neal the opportunity to confront his accuser. During the meeting, “Ahmed” stated that he had never named Mr. Neal as being the alleged dealer and his accusations were retracted.

Four months into his detention, the Public Prosecutor ordered an analysis of the phone records of all 17 suspects. The new evidence appeared to demonstrate that the Dutch national had in fact been supplied drugs by a female of Philippine nationality, one of the initial seventeen to have been arrested. However, by the time this discovery came about, she had already been deported back to the Philippines.

The new evidence, combined with the retraction of Ahmed’s statement, as well as the absence of any corroborating evidence clearly exonerated Mr. Neal. In spite of this decision, in March 2019 the decision was taken to transfer Mr. Neal’s case to Abu Dhabi, and he was moved to the Central Prison in Abu Dhabi. No additional information has been provided as to why or how this decision was reached.

It is argued on his behalf in the Communication to the UN that this decision to transfer the case to Abu Dhabi is clearly a politically motivated decision on behalf of the Public Prosecutor, given that he is reportedly seeking promotion. To release Mr. Neal now would mean that his department would be forced to admit fault, whereas by transferring the case to Abu Dhabi, it is no longer his responsibility.

Whilst in custody, Mr. Neal has been denied his prescribed medication to treat his diagnosed PTSD following his final tour of Afghanistan. The visiting psychiatrist chose to interrogate Mr. Neal rather than provide any counselling.

The protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms ought to go beyond the political posturing of national states; human rights are universal, they are not dependent on diplomatic, trade or military allegiance, and yet governments consistently allow such factors to blinker their policies to the detriment of individuals, rather than discharge their obligation to humanity.

In filing this petition of complaint, Guernica urges the UN Special Procedures Branch to examine the circumstances of Mr. Neal’s detention, to conduct an inspection of the conditions of his custody and examine the on-going ill-treatment with a view to securing his immediate release and exoneration.

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