Government backs Dubai police equipment fair despite UAE torture record

November 2, 2014

Image of Barbed wire

The British Government has been criticised over its backing for an equipment fair hosted by police in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), due to the frequent use of torture by UAE police to extract ‘confessions’ – including from several British citizens in recent years.

Questions were raised for UK Trade and Industry (UKTI) – a division of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – this week as the Emirates Security Exhibition & Conference (EmSEC) took place in Dubai. An advertisement on the UKTI website describes the 2-day security industry event as designed “to support and encourage UK exports” to “law enforcement and security markets.” The fair was organised by the Dubai Police and ADS Group, a UK arms trade body with close links to UKTI; on the eve of the event, UKTI and the UK embassy in Dubai hosted a reception for all participating UK firms and consultants.

Police torture in the UAE is widespread and well-documented. A recent study conducted in Dubai by legal charity Reprieve found that 75 per cent of prisoners experienced some form of abuse following arrest. British student Ahmad Zeidan, 21, whom Reprieve is assisting, was jailed earlier this year in Sharjah, near Dubai, narrowly avoiding a death sentence; his conviction rested on a bogus ‘confession’ he was forced to sign in Arabic – a language he cannot read – after he was subjected to torture including beatings, hooding and threats of rape. Other British victims have previously described being subjected to electric shocks from batons or taser-like devices, and have also been threatened with sexual assault.

Specific concerns have been raised by Reprieve regarding the list of ‘required products and services’ released by Dubai Police ahead of the event, which includes the category “Public Order Equipment – Electronic.”

David Cameron has told Reprieve that the Government takes Mr Zeidan’s reports of torture “extremely seriously”, but failed to intervene directly in his case ahead of an appeal hearing in September. The Sharjah court upheld the conviction and refused to consider evidence of Mr Zeidan’s torture and forced ‘confession.’

Clare Algar, Executive Director at Reprieve, said: “The UK government’s enthusiasm for this event is utterly shocking given what we know about the current epidemic of police torture in the UAE. It’s well-documented that the Emirati police regularly torture British citizens, among others, into signing bogus ‘confessions’ – and one of those Brits, Ahmad Zeidan, is still in prison, begging for help from his government. Instead of supporting the sale of torture tools to the UAE, the UK should be pushing for an end to police torture and calling for Ahmad’s release.”


1. For further information, please contact Alice Gillham in Reprieve’s press office: / 07792 351 660

2. A letter from Reprieve about the event to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is available on request.

3. Details of the Dubai police trade fair can be accessed on the UKTI website.

4. The Dubai police’s list of required products can be accessed here.