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  • Writer's pictureDetained in Dubai

International law firm Dechert served with lawsuit for torture and human rights violations

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

The High Court of England is set to hear claims that British lawyers from Dechert broke human rights and UAE laws in their investigation, interrogation and incarceration of Karam Sadeq, in the UAE’s emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. Karam has now been imprisoned for six years, including a period of more than 500 days in solitary confinement.

Named in the High Court of England claim are three Dechert lawyers, Neil Gerrard, Caroline Black and David Hughes (now a partner at Stewarts Law). It is alleged these lawyers broke human rights and UAE laws in their investigation, interrogation and incarceration of Karam Sadeq in several Ras Al Khaimah detention facilities, over the past six years. In fact, the treatment of Mr Sadeq is so alarming, that Detained in Dubai is drafting a request for urgent intervention by the United Nations in Geneva.

Dechert is one of the 50 largest law firms in the world, with revenue of over $1 billion. Their London office, where the accused lawyers Neil Gerrard and Caroline Black currently work, and where David Hughes worked before his transfer to Stewarts Law, made a profit of £47.8 million in 2018. Dechert’s London office has been providing legal services to RAK for several years.

The lawsuit claims that Dechert acted in violation of UAE federal laws by knowingly pressuring Mr Sadeq and his family to provide false testimony against other parties and by forcing confessions out of him under extreme duress. Gerrard is accused of crossing the line into serious human rights violations while working on behalf of RAK Ruler Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, even allegedly threatening Mr. Sadeq with imprisoning his wife and taking his children away.

Sadeq was subjected to physical deprivation, verbal and mental abuse, and was forced to remain in stress positions for prolonged periods, including being kept in solitary confinement for more than 500 days.

Over the course of approximately 15 interrogations, Gerrard allegedly told Mr. Sadeq in no uncertain terms that he was required to incriminate his former employer and colleagues at the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority, and that if he didn’t, he would never see the light of day. Mr. Sadeq alleges that he was ultimately forced to sign a false “confession” prepared by Hughes, under Gerrard’s direction.

The particulars of the claim extend to some 60 pages and paint a shocking picture of appalling conduct by the Dechert team.

In the Claim, Gerrard and Hughes are reported to have told Mr. Sadeq that they would be returning to the UK for Christmas, but that he would be left “in this sh*t place you are in for another two months, maybe you will be forbidden from taking a shower. Or maybe we will ask them to show you the sun for a bit,” revealing their apparent total control over Mr. Sadeq’s treatment and the conditions of his detention.

The claim also details how Mrs. Sadeq was told by both Gerrard and Hughes that her husband would be jailed indefinitely if he did not “cooperate”, and that she herself could be imprisoned and her children put up for adoption. Hughes allegedly told her “this is how things work in the modern world.”

Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, who is representing Karam Al Sadeq, commented: “In Detained in Dubai’s 12 years of operation, we have seen the prevalence of forced confessions, human rights violations and even torture in the UAE. However, this is the first time that we have seen a claim against British lawyers for torture.

“We believe that Neil Gerrard, David Hughes and Caroline Black each participated in and helped to orchestrate the unlawful abuse Mr. Sadeq suffered, and violated Mr. Sadeq’s human rights under the mistaken assumption that working on behalf of the Ruler gave them impunity.

“We are unfortunately familiar with the lack of due process, the legal abuse, the torture and intimidation that occurs in Ras Al Khaimah by local law enforcement and prosecutors on a regular basis; but we would not expect British solicitors to act with such utter disregard for the proper rule of law and moral principals. Internationally mandated standards of due process and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not obligations that one escapes by being employed by the Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah.”

The Solicitors Regulation Authority have launched an investigation into Gerrard in relation to his role in Mr. Sadeq’s case.

“British lawyers are held to a standard of conduct and ethics regardless of who their client is or in what jurisdiction they operate,” Stirling remarked, “Based on Mr. Sadeq’s testimony, it appears that Mr. Gerrard, Mr. Hughes and Ms Black seriously violated these standards and chose to follow local practices which place the government and its agents above the law. We welcome the decision by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to open an investigation into Mr. Gerrard’s conduct in Mr. Sadeq’s case.”

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