Charles Goerens MEP: EP will not stop advocating for rights in Middle East

Interviewed by Sarhan Basem, (Newswire Now) – Brussels – Is the UAE a tolerant state? Does it enjoy such a reputation? Why the EU has allowed UAE to enter in Schengen Visa with exception deal? Is the EU dealing with countries in double standard policies? Unfortunately, international reports by Human Rights Organizations have reported that that there are massive violations of human rights, especially when it comes to free speech and other human rights. Though the UN has raised concern about the reality of human rights there and some MEPs had requested urgency resolutions on that, the UAE still targets political opponents and activists, and criminalizes fundamental freedoms and basic human rights. The country also has a history of systematic torture, enforced disappearance, and arbitrary arrest. Besides, women and migrant domestic workers continue to face structural discrimination and exploitation.

Continuing to discuss some critical issues in the Middle East with politicians and members of the European Parliament, I interview Member Charles Goerens from Renew Europe Group. He is Member of Subcommittee on Human Rights, Substitute on Delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula , Vice-Chair Constitutional Affairs and  he is also member of many other committees in the Parliament.

How does the European Parliament perceive the seriousness of violations against freedom of expression, represented in prison conditions and unjust convictions for activists?

The parliament has repeatedly alerted to human rights violations in the UAE, for example through resolutions or letters to the government, such as in the case of Alia Abdel Nour. In general terms, I believe that the EU political dialogue with other countries must include a regular scrutiny of their respect of to the international obligations they committed themselves too, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 As a leading member of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, the UAE launched many unlawful coalition attacks, some likely war crimes, killing and wounding dozens of civilians. How does the EP intervene to stop these going violations against human rights of innocent civilians?

On one hand the European answer needs to be a humanitarian one. But of course, a humanitarian response can only help alleviate the sufferance of the Yemeni people. The DEVE committee of which I am the Renew coordinator, has regularly discusses the situation in Yemen and fully supports the Commission’s humanitarian response.

On the other hand, I support any effort that helps strengthening the EU’s position as a foreign actor to be reckoned with and listened to, in the sense that it has the diplomatic authority to effectively condemn such violations. The EU needs to speak with one voice and agree on a common diplomacy that can help preventing such conflicts. Unfortunately for the time being, the EU is only a payer but not a player. Therefore, it needs to overcome its internal divergences and agree on a common position.

 Some detainees are abused and victimized of fair trial violations; the best example of Alia Abdel Nour, who died in detention despite her failing health after ignoring the calls or many international human rights bodies. What are the policies and mechanisms the EP adopts to deter such flagrant violations?

The European Parliament can on one hand try to politically counter such violations, for example in the form of resolutions and letters, such as the one sent by the EP to the UAE to ask for the release of Ms Nour. The EP can also call for sanctions against governments who commit human rights abuses, but such decisions need to be adopted unanimously by the Council. A new human rights sanctions mechanism against individual actors, in the spirit of the US Magnitsky act, is currently also being worked at on parliament level Concerning the UAE, Political influence can also be exerted via the Delegation for the Relations with the Arab Peninsula.

On the other hand, the EP can side with and back human rights defenders and help amplifying their voices. The DROI subcommittee moreover holds regular in-camera meetings with the Commission to discuss human rights violations – they are in camera to protect human rights defenders who could otherwise be subject to retaliation. There is also the Sakharov prize, which has the potential to give human rights actors a considerable visibility.

Gender-based discrimination is not included in the definition of the UAE’s anti-discrimination law, meanwhile, women are exposed to different forms of violations, especially with regard to martial rape and chastisement. What is your message to urge  the UAE to criminalize these serious violations in the law?

There is a range of international texts calling for the protection of gender-based violence, such as the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women or the Istanbul Convention. It is crucial that these are implemented. The Parliament also cooperates and supports international recognized actors such as the UNFPA, who have the necessary expertise and experience to call for and ensure the protection of the most vulnerable and especially women and children.

The UAE urgently need to bring their laws in line with the international conventions that call for the protection of women and children.

 Migrant workers falling under the Kafala system are excluded from the UAE’s labour law and vulnerable of passport confiscation and the withholding of their wages. How can this be stopped? What does the EP do to protect the rights of migrant workers there?

The Parliament advocates for the abolition of all forms of modern slavery and human trafficking. Labour rights need to be respected globally.

The EU has put in place a legislation that prohibits any form of discrimination in general, and particularly defends the rights of migrant workers in the EU. Similar laws need to be implemented outside of the EU. The ILO as an internationally recognized institution could advise the UAE as to how such a legislation could be adapted to the particular context of the UAE.

In October 2018, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the UAE’s violations against human rights, however, the situation is still alarming. How can the EP practically intervene to stop this reality of human rights in the UAE?

As mentioned above, the EP has several possibilities to exert diplomatic pressure and push for the respect of fundamental rights. However, these remain in the field of soft power, given that decisions. For Example, regarding the implementation of sanctions are adopted in the Council. However, the EP will not stop advocating for the respect of fundamental rights and supporting actors, activists and organizations in any ways possible.

By Sarhan Basem, exclusively for Newswire Now network.

Sarhan Basem Accredited Journalist to the European Commission and Member of the International Federations of Journalists( IFJ). He is also an international Journalist who reported from a number of war zones in the Middle East.

Views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Newswire now. Newswire now does not assume any responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, topicality or quality of the information provided.

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