The Queen faces the prospect of being dragged into an international human rights dispute over the treatment of British prisoners in Dubai.
Three British men held in custody on charges of drugs possession are due to hear their verdict on the eve of a diplomatic state visit to the UK by the President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed al-Nahyan, one of the world’s wealthiest monarchs, arrives at Windsor Castle on Tuesday on a state visit intended to cement diplomatic relations between the two countries. It comes just weeks after London Mayor Boris Johnson’s tour of the Gulf in which he described himself as the “Mayor of the eighth emirate” – a reference to the seven-member federation’s affinity with London. But the diplomatic visit coincides with mounting anger over alleged diplomatic failures between Britain and Dubai in the aftermath of torture allegations by three men arrested last July on charges of drug possession.
Suneet Jeehr, 25, was arrested with two friends, Grant Cameron, 25, and Karl Williams, 26. Last night his brother, Aneet, became the latest to add to a catalogue of torture allegations. He told The Independent: “Something is getting lost in translation at the highest level between Britain and Dubai.
“At the moment this country seems more caught up in its business relationships than worrying about the welfare of its people. The torture treatment of people in that country needs to be expressed to the Queen with urgency.”
His comments came just hours after the mother of Mr Cameron spoke of the “barbaric ordeal” that she said her son and two friends have suffered while in police custody. A coalition of seven human rights organisations has written to David Cameron urging him to raise the issue of what it says are widespread abuses in the UAE when he meets Sheikh Khalifa.
Sheikh Khalifa, who was once described in a WikiLeaks cable as a “distant and uncharismatic personage”, will be treated to a three-day reception that includes a state carriage procession to Windsor castle, a royal banquet and a private meeting with Mr Cameron and the Prince of Wales.
The three men claim that after their arrest in July last year they were beaten, threatened with guns and forced to sign documents in Arabic, a language none of them speaks. They face charges of supplying, possessing and taking the drug – all of which they deny. Tonight, Donald Campbell, a spokesman for the legal charity Reprieve, said: “The mistreatment of these three men must be a central issue for discussion during the visit. If the UAE is allowed to torture our citizens with impunity, the British public will rightly wonder just what the point of close relations with the Emirates is.”
A spokesman for Amnesty International said: “David Cameron needs to dispel any suspicion that the UAE’s considerable wealth helps shield it from criticism by telling Sheikh Khalifa that his country’s disturbing human rights record, including violations of the right to a fair trial, allegations of torture and restrictions on free speech, is simply unacceptable.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said last night: “We are concerned about aspects of this and are formally raising these with the Emirati authorities.”