Last week the Government of Jersey announced a series of joint business initiatives with the UAE, including plans to sign a bilateral investment treaty that aims to boost economic ties and trade between the two jurisdictions.
But the Channel Islands Humanists has questioned the move, claiming that it casts doubt over the Government of Jersey’s ‘commitment to protecting and promoting human rights internationally’.
In response, External Relations Minister Ian Gorst said that Jersey had a ‘consistent record’ of sanctioning human-rights abusers and that ‘co-operation’ with other jurisdictions was the best way to make progress.
The humanists say that the UAE has been widely criticised for its regime of ‘arbitrary arrests and detentions’, participating in abuses in the Yemen conflict and persecuting religious minorities as well as the LGBT community.
‘The country makes it illegal for its citizens to be of any religion other than Islam, and apostasy is punishable by death,’ a statement released by the group says.
‘Freedom of religion or belief is extremely limited in the UAE, with all citizens deemed to be Muslims. Conversion to other religions or to being non-religious is forbidden and the legal punishment for conversion from Islam is death, one of only 13 states globally to impose such a punishment.’
It adds: ‘There is also systematic persecution of LGBT people in the UAE, which prosecutes and imprisons individuals for same-sex relationships. It does likewise for sexual activity outside of marriage, including women who report instances of rape.’
Deputy Louise Doublet, a committee member of the Channel Islands Humanists, said that she could face imprisonment or even execution for her non-religious beliefs in the UAE.
‘At a time when others are imposing sanctions and withdrawing trade from the UAE over its many human-rights violations, not least the abuses that have been committed by UAE-backed forces in Yemen, it is unconscionable that the Government of Jersey is considering deepening our relations with this regime,’ she said
‘I, and many other proud Jersey people, feel strongly that if we are to value human rights and respect the rights of minorities, we must call out, and not embrace, states like the UAE.’
In response, Senator Gorst said: ‘Jersey has a consistent record of implementing international sanctions (both EU and UN), applied against countries, regimes or individuals believed to be violating international law, including human-rights abuses.
‘Just last week we were the first jurisdiction to transpose the UK’s Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations into our own laws, as soon as they came into force in the UK.
‘This demonstrates our commitment to working with the UK to support human rights overseas, and to ensuring that those responsible for gross human-rights violations are punished.’
He added: ‘Like the UK, USA and the EU, Jersey believes that providing opportunities for individuals and groups to participate in dialogue and community exchanges can play an important role in broadening horizons and encouraging tolerance and mutual respect.
‘In the same way, we believe that the pursuit of greater international trade can, and should, be complementary with support for broader reform and the protection of human rights.
‘This is because the safeguards that are good for human rights – democratic freedoms, good governance, the rule of law, property rights and civil society – also create fertile conditions for private-sector-led growth and sustainable economic development.
‘Collaborating with the UAE in areas which support Jersey’s values can enhance this progress, and we believe greater cooperation is the most effective way to do this.’