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LGBT community's outcry at World Coffee Championship being held in Dubai. Organisers rethinking location.

Press release   •   Sep 13, 2017 12:19 BST

UAE Federal Penal Code, Article 354 states “whoever commits rape on a female or sodomy with a male shall be punishable by death”.

A statement from WCE that “Dubai was selected to host the Cezve/Ibrik Championship, World Brewers Cup, World Cup Tasters Championship, and World Coffee Roasting Championship next September. [2018]” prompted condemnation internationally due to the UAE’s record for human rights abuses.

Public opposition to the location of the events has focussed around systemic human rights abuses, slavery and the very real risks faced by anyone from or associated to, the LGBT community by entering the UAE. Several hundred signatures were collected on a petition and WCE have been approached privately by many individuals.

Local law states that all sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is illegal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It carries a penalty of ‘confinement for a minimum period of one year’. But as has been seen recently with the case of the two trans people from Singapore who were arrested in an Abu Dhabi shopping mall for ‘looking feminine’ and numerous previous arrests for similar ‘crimes’, this is a much wider issue than sexual activity.

It is about personal freedom and choice and the very real threat of imprisonment and torture for non-compliance.

Everyone involved with the events would be at risk of falling foul of these laws, not just LGBT+ individuals. This includes literally everyone, from admin support to the judges of the events and the participants could be accused of collusion at any point.

WCE have been very responsive to the pressure, further on in their recent statement they say that they “have decided to suspend further planning on these four events in Dubai while we consult with the Boards of Directors of the SCA and the WCE”. Their statement outlines that they will be using a different and more thorough criteria for selecting future host-countries.

All companies dealing with the UAE or who have employees in the UAE should consider the risks their staff can and will face. It is irresponsible for any employer to send a staff member into an environment where a minor breach of local law can be met with brutal, long term torture and imprisonment.

David Haigh, survivor of torture in a Dubai prison for nearly two years said “I suffered torture, mistreatment and legal abuse while wrongfully detained in Dubai. Until these practices cease to exist, the UAE should not be considered a conference venue”. Haigh, former MD of Leads United Football Cub, Solicitor and Managing Partner at Legal Advisory Stirling Haigh has applied to the UN for a ruling on wrongful detention and human rights abuses.

Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, an NGO which has helped many LGBT+ people over the last ten years, many of whom have been victims of torture in the UAE because of their sexuality has said that “Any company intending to hold an international event in Dubai or anywhere in the Emirates should take into account the severe risks involved. We advise against this practice as there is no completely safe way to protect staff and employees in the UAE. It only takes a call to the police and individuals will be picked up on suspicion and jailed immediately, many disappear into the system which has no way of tracking where they are. Torture is commonplace and individuals are often forced to sign ‘confessions’ written in languages they can’t read or write.”

In an Official Statement, the Executive Council of the Barista Guild of America added a statement to the growing opposition: “To be notified, along with our community, that SCA [Speciality Coffee Association] and World Coffee Events has decided to host several of our annual World Coffee Championships in a city built on modern-day slave labor, within a federal monarchy where laws, policies, and behavioral norms stand to alienate and endanger those in our community who identify as LGBTIQ, women, and/or those who might adhere to particular religious beliefs is unacceptable. We do NOT support this decision.”

UAE Criminal and Civil Justice Specialists.  Contact us on

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