United Arab Emirates (UAE) has acceded to three of the seven United Nations Conventions on human rights, namely: the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1974); the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (2004), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1997).
United Arab Emirates has also acceded to six of the eight International Labour Organization Conventions concerned with human rights, namely: the Two Conventions (29 and 105) pertaining to Elimination of Forced or Compulsory Labour (1982 and 1997 respectively); the two conventions (100 and 111) on the prevention of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation (1997 and 2001 respectively); and the two conventions (182 and 183) concerning the prevention of employing children and minors (1998 and 2001 respectively).
United Arab Emirates made reservations on the provisions of some conventions it had acceded to:
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: she declared that acceding to this convention does not imply recognizing Israel or establishing any relations with her.
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: article (2-F/6) which states that laws that discriminate against women are void. UAE considers this article as contradictory to rules of inheritance in Islamic Law (Shari'a). Article (19) concerning equal rights in the case of children's citizenship. United Arab Emirates considers citizenship an internal matter subject to national law. Article (15-F/2) pertaining to equal rights in legal capacity, considered a contradictory to Shari'a and thus not binding. Araticle (16) concerning equality in marriage and family relations as it contradicts the provisions of Shari'a. Article (29-F/1) concerning the referral of dispute among states over interpreting or implementing the convention to arbitration.
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child: Article (7 F/1 and 2) concerning citizenship. United Arab Emirates considers acquiring citizenship an internal matter regulated by national legislation. Article (14) on a child's right freedom of belief and religion; United Arab Emirates limited its abidance by the content of this article to the extent that does not contradict the provisions of Shari'a. Article (17) concerning the guarantee by parties that children have the right to access information from various national and international sources, United Arab Emirates abides by this article according to its own regulations and laws, and as far as it does not violate its own traditions and cultural values. Article (21) concerning adoption; United Arab Emirates adheres to Shari'a principles that do not allow adoption.
United Arab Emirates has agreed to the "Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam" issued in 1990 by foreign ministers of Muslim countries. The declaration is a guiding document that does not require ratification. United Arab Emirates also acceded to the "Arab Charter of Human Rights/Amended" prepared by the Arab Summit in Tunisia in May 2004. United Arab Emirates did not ratify the charter just like most Arab countries.
Human Rights Institutions
The Emirates Women's Union was established in 1974. On September 31, 1995 the "Administration of Human Rights Care at Dubai Police Department" was established to train policemen on human rights. Its training is offered to local police officers, and sometimes to police officers from other Gulf countries. The Administration receives citizens' complaints regarding their dealings with the police. It includes five divisions: complaints, humanitarian and social services, social solidarity, research and development, and human rights. "United Arab Emirates Women's Union" was established in 1974. The Lawyers Society also has a human rights committee that works on disseminating human rights principles and enhancing respect of human rights. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs rejected in 2005 two applications for establishing human rights organizations. However, The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs licensed the first civil human rights organization on February 5, 2006, namely "United Arab Emirates Human Rights Association" in accordance with federal law (No. 6/1974 and its amendments) that deals with public welfare societies. The vice-chairman of the association said that his association is considered as an intermediary between individuals and agencies that make critical resolutions relating to individuals rights, especially tackling grievances of expatriates in the context of state constitution and international conventions signed by United Arab Emirates. The United Arab Emirates Human Rights Association joined the Arab Human Rights Organization.
Achievements on the Road to Good Governance
1. The United Arab Emirates has a good record in the field of human development that places it at an advanced rank worldwide. It was one of five Arab countries that scored more than 5 points on the Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International in 2005 (More than 159 countries scored less than 5 points).
2. The Emirates held their first legislative elections in December 2006. The number of eligible voters was 6688 including 1190 women. They had to elect half the members of the National Federal Council (NFC) which consists of 40 members. Eligible voters were chosen by the rulers of the different emirates. The number of candidates was 438 including 63 women.
The elections proceeded in 3 phases. The first phase was conducted in Abu Dhabi and Fujaira on December 16, 2006, whereby 99 candidates including 14 women from Abu Dhabi contested 4 NFC seats. One woman won a seat in Abu Dhabi's elections. Fujaira's share was 2 seats. The second phase took place in Dubai and Ras Al-Khaima on December 18, whereby 77 candidates including 15 women contested Dubai's 4 NFC seats. A total of 80 candidates including 3 women contested Ras Al-Khaima's 3 NFC seats. Women did not win any seat. The third phase took place in Sharjah, Ajman and Umm al-Quwain on December 20. In Ajman, 24 candidates including 3 women contested 3 NFC seats. In Sharjah 97 candidates including 27 women contested 2 NFC seats and 26 candidates including one woman contested 2 NFC seats in Umm al-Quwain. Following these elections, rulers of the different emirates appointed the other 20 members of the NFC.
3. The Prime Minister Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoom issued a decree on 25 September 2007 putting an end to the criminalization of press offences and the imprisonment of journalists because of their work.
4. The Ministerial Committee for Legislations approved on 28 June 2008 a draft law that prohibits imprisonment of journalists.