Tag Archives: Human Rights

UK Lawyers: “Don’t put Spotlight on Dubai”

DubaiUK lawyers have warned against putting the spotlight on Dubai as an international centre of arbitration. The comments come ahead of a seminar due to take place next month with the intention of promoting Dubai as a place to settle legal disputes.

The seminar is being developed with the involvement of the British Irish Commercial Bar Association (BICBA), cooperating with the Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC) and the University of Dubai. David Casement QC, the chair of the BICBA, is also among the event’s speakers. The goal of the event is to promote Dubai and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as a whole as a “world centre in arbitration,” as well as to host discussions and generate proposals on how this position can be strengthened and how the Dubai legal system could develop in the future.

However, a number of legal professionals in the UK, including both solicitors and barristers, have criticised the aim of promoting Dubai as an international centre of justice. They say that there are serious problems with the legal system of the UAE, and that this kind of spotlight should not be shone on the region until they are resolved.

Critics of the seminar and its message point out that the High Court in England and Wales has ruled against allowing individuals to be extradited from the UK to Dubai. The grounding for this decision and for their criticisms, they say, is that the Dubai justice system has a history of problems such as corruption, violations of human rights, and denying access to justice.

Much of the criticism has come from Detained in Dubai, which is based in the UK but specialises in the civil and criminal justice systems of the UAE. The organisation described the seminar as “fuelling propaganda that Dubai has an equivelently competent justice system.” A partner at the organisation, non-practising solicitor David Haigh, said “I have practised law in both the UK and the UAE but unfortunately, I myself have first-hand experience of the legal system in Dubai. I was wrongfully imprisoned, arbitrarily detained.”

Haigh continued: “At present, until the UAE judicial system undergoes significant reform, the DIAC can by no means, be considered a just, independent, safe or modern dispute resolution centre.”

Doughty Street Chambers barrister Ben Cooper was also critical, saying that he “would not recommend” the BICBA help to portray Dubai as a centre of dispute resolution. He went on to say that “The UAE needs to address and remedy judicial failings before it should be considered as a possible legal jurisdiction of choice.”

Court of Appeal Rules man can Sue UK Government

abdul-hakim-belhajJudges at the Court of Appeal have decided that Abdul Hakim Belhaj, a Libyan man who claims to have been illegally sent back to his home land and tortured, can mount a case against the UK government in court.

Previously, the High Court had decided that Mr Belhaj’s case could not be heard in a British courtroom because of the potential damage it could do to international relations. Specifically, it was decided by Mr Justice Simon that, in spite of the alleged knowledge held by UK officials, a court in England did not have the power to adjudicate on claims of rendition and torture that took place in Libya. Furthermore, the court  dcided that many of the claims were “non-justiciable” in UK courts because they involved officials in China, Libya and other countries such as Thailand and Malaysia.On these grounds, it was decided that the case be thrown out.

However, the Court of Appeal has overturned this decision, with judges deciding that Mr Belhaj’s claims were “grave” enough to warrant being heard in court. Judges at the Appeal Court said that state immunity was not enough to bar the proceedings. Furthermore, Lord Dyson voiced the opinion that there is “a compelling public interest in the investigation by the English courts of these very grave allegations.”

Sapna Malik, the lawyer representing Mr Belhaj, described the decision as a “very significant step forward.” Mr Belhaj, who is now a politician in his homeland of Libya, said that he and his wife were “gratified by the judges’ decision to give us our day in court.”

Mr Belhaj alleges that MI6 and Jack Straw, the former Foreign Secretary, were deeply involved with the arrangement of the rendition of Mr Belhaj and his wife from China. According to Mr Belhaj, who previously led a group opposing the Muammar Gaddafi regime, claimed that information leading to his rendition was provided by British Intelligence.

The rendition took place in 2004, and resulted in Mr Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar being returned to their homeland where they were subjected to torture which, according to Mr Belhaj, is “as fresh and as painful for us as if it happened yesterday.” Mr Straw has previously denied any awareness of the rendition.

The government and Jack Straw now have the option to appeal to the Supreme Court. If an appeal is made, the case will not be heard until this has concluded. According to a statement from the Foreign Office, it is currently considering whether to lodge an application for an appeal or not.

Judge compromises over niqab for Muslim woman in dock

 A judge who earlier in the month refused to allow a Muslim woman to wear her veil which covered the whole of her face has now made a compromise allowing the woman to wear it apart from times where she is giving evidence to the court. The compromise ruling made by Judge Peter Murphy is a first and has set a precedent on the wearing of a niqab in court during criminal proceedings.

The woman in question who has been named as only D in the case has pleaded as not guilty to accusations of witness intimidation while wearing the religious veil. She said that it is contrary to her religious beliefs to show her face to the public and so the judge made special arrangements which involve screening her from public view when she is asked to reveal her face during the proceedings.

The trial which is set to take place in November at Blackfriars crown court includes directions which will ban court room artists from drawing or sketching the defendant when she is not wearing her niqab. The only people who will be permitted to look at the woman’s face are the jury, legal counsel as well as the judge only when she is giving evidence.

The judge who accepted submissions both from the defence and the prosecutor stated that there was not clear precedent in existence which would bring a resolution to the matter. The judge commented at the uncertainty and reluctance to deal with the issue by saying that the religious veil had become “the elephant in the courtroom”. He took a stance on the religious garment by saying that women had a choice whether or not to wear the veil but this choice should nevertheless be respected by the judiciary as is the persons religious belief.

The issue in the circumstance which the judge had to address was striking a balance between the defendant’s right to a religious belief as protected by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the public interest which is involved in criminal cases. In the judgement it was made clear that the court has the right to impose restrictions on religious freedoms which are deemed to be necessary as was done by the European Court of Human Rights when they upheld a judgement banning a worker from wearing a cross at her place of employment on health and safety grounds.