How the UAE subverts democracy far beyond its borders

How the UAE subverts democracy far beyond its borders

Rhys Davies and Matthew Hedges write:

“With democracy on the ballot, we have to remember these first principles: Democracy means the rule of the people—not the rule of monarchs or the moneyed.” That was President Joe Biden’s appeal to American voters on the eve of midterm elections in the United States in 2022, a message he is carrying into his crucial re-election campaign and presumptive rematch with Donald Trump this fall.

Yet one of America’s closest partners in the Middle East not only represents the very rule of monarchs and the moneyed, but is also actively trying to subvert democracy around the world, including in the United States. The United Arab Emirates has demonstrated a blatant disregard for the rule of law and individual rights, engaging in widespread spying and surveillance tactics against critics and dissidents both within and outside its borders. The Emirati regime has been accused of employing sophisticated cyber-surveillance tools to hack into the phones, email accounts and digital communications of activists, journalists and even foreign government officials.

This cyber espionage violates the privacy and rights of targeted individuals and poses a broader threat to the security and stability of democratic processes worldwide. The UAE’s willingness to engage in such activities suggests a concerted effort to undermine the principles of free speech, dissent and accountability that are fundamental to democratic societies. Such repression is transnational, extending far beyond the UAE’s borders through the use of covert operatives, mercenaries and exploitation of the mechanisms and institutions of international law enforcement.

The UAE’s authoritarian agenda abroad reflects how tightly it controls politics at home, suppressing any form of opposition or dissent. Activists, journalists and ordinary Emiratis who dare to speak out against the regime face harsh penalties, including imprisonment, torture and other grave human rights violations. The UAE’s repressive tactics are not limited to dissidents and activists, but to anyone perceived as a threat to its interests, including international businesspeople operating within the country’s borders. [Continue reading…]

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