Legal professionals, led by human rights NGO Detained In Dubai, are calling for the UK-UAE Extradition Treaty to be suspended after multiple UK court rulings have rejected UAE extradition requests due to the “real likelihood of human rights violations”.
The English High Court ruled against an extradition request in the case of Lodhi in 2010, generating a precedent that prevents extradition if there is a risk that the requested party will be subject to human rights violations and unfair trials. Since then, lower courts have followed the precedent and ruled against all subsequent requests.
In a Westminster Magistrates Court hearing last year, Judge Purdy ruled against extradition; He even went to the extent of chastising the UAE for failing to assist their prosecutor in providing any evidence that may counter allegations of human rights abuses; Perhaps they had none.
Westminster Magistrates Court has now come to expect that extraditions will be denied and has made attempts to streamline hearings by combining elements of different cases, showing that they no longer wish to waste expensive court time on hearing requests that have an almost guaranteed outcome.
The cost of UAE extradition requests is high, estimated to be in the millions of pounds per year. There are court costs, prosecuting counsel and defence counsel costs, usually covered by Legal Aid. A Freedom of Information request was made to determine the exact amount that the UAE is costing taxpayers, but the government did not provide the information sought by Detained in Dubai, a UK based organisation specialising in UAE justice (banned by UAE telecommunications regulatory authority)
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai and Joint Managing Partner at Stirling Haigh has provided expert testimony in a number of extradition requests in the UK and abroad. Stirling has just provided evidence for the Edinburgh Sheriff Court to prevent a bus driver’s extradition to Dubai. Stirling said “After a week of intense proceedings, we are still awaiting the final judgement in Black’s case but expect the Sheriff to rule along the lines of other UK verdicts (in England, Scotland and Wales); That is, that Black will not face extradition to the UAE because he would face human rights abuses and unfair trials”
David Haigh, Solicitor and Joint Managing Partner at Stirling Haigh and torture survivor gave evidence at Black’s trial, covering his personal experience of unfair trials, legal abuse and torture during his detention. Haigh supports the suspension of the extradition treaty saying “Until the UAE government can demonstrate that it has made changes that would be grounds for the UK to agree to an extradition request, the treaty should be suspended to put an end to the squandering of taxpayer dollars”.
Stirling & Haigh believe it irresponsible to allow proceedings in cases where the outcome is predetermined. Not only is it a huge cost to UK residents but it is enormously stressful and emotionally draining for the defendant. In the majority of these cases, the requested party has been falsely accused of a crime and the extradition request is being used as a tool for revenge. In the case of Scotland resident Garnet Black, the request came from his disgruntled son in law who wanted to exert pressure onto his former wife to return to him after abandoning him in the UAE.
The UK taxpayer is funding frivolous, privately inspired prosecutions from highly emotional and vengeful Emiratis. The requests are not for cases involving serious or violent crime. They have usual arisen from a business partnership dispute or cases of a civil nature. Stirling continued “The UK should not be allowing its own legal system to be manipulated as is common in the UAE, simply to maintain an alliance with the gulf nation. The suspension of the extradition treaty would be a significant step towards encouraging the UAE to reform its legal and penal system and would ultimately be beneficial in promoting human rights”.
Ben Cooper, an extradition barrister at Doughty Street Chambers recommended, along with David Haigh and Radha Stirling, that the British and Irish Commercial Bar Association (BICBA) cancel an event they had planned in conjunction with the Dubai International Arbitration Centre.
The recommendation was made after British lawyers were appalled that the English, Scots or Northern Ireland Bars would support a judicial system in its infancy, where corruption and legal abuse have been commonplace. BICBA cancelled their event:
Stirling and Haigh have agreed that UK Chief Justices should not be sitting on Dubai benches, supporting and promoting the “facade” that the UAE has a reliable judicial system, free of abuse and corruption, in line with international standards. Stirling said “It is not acceptable that the UK legal profession promote the system as it is now. While theoretically, the UAE’s legal system may appear to be in line with international standards, a practical analysis reveals quite the opposite. The UK government, in allowing the treaty to continue, is condoning a corrupt judicial system, human rights abuses and torture. If English High Court Justices have ruled that torture is likely in the UAE, the UK government should immediately suspend the treaty. Anything less appears to be supporting the torture of British citizens”.
If the UK continues to allow extradition requests, it is sending a clear message to the UAE that they are prioritising diplomatic relations, rather than protecting the rights of its own citizens. A suspension of the treaty would not only encourage the UAE to invest in human rights improvements, but would free up much needed taxpayer funds while preventing the further legal abuse of UK citizens.
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