UAE Overview

The United Arab Emirates is today one of the world’s most repressive environments for civil society activists, as the substantial economic development of recent decades and close relations with many western democracies failed to coincide with increasing respect for fundamental freedoms. Dozens of human rights and free speech activists are held in the UAE’s jails, some of them in undisclosed locations and many subjected to dire conditions of detention, torture and other inhumane treatment. Following the wave of citizen protest that swept across the Arab world in 2010 and 2011, the authorities in UAE further tightened restrictions on free speech, association and peaceful assembly. New cyber crime and anti-terror rules allow the state free reign to silence, torture and imprison its critics in civil society, the media and academia. Public protest is impossible, online content is heavily censored and monitored while the state closely scrutinises civil society organisations.