In a landmark move, the UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, issued a federal law to establish a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI).
The institution will protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. Headquartered in Abu Dhabi, the NHRI may open additional branches in other emirates.
This is the latest in a string of initiatives and laws established by the UAE Government to protect human rights. More than 200 nationalities call the country home and its residents live in harmony, with their civil liberties guaranteed by the constitution.
Here are some of the initiatives launched by the country to protect human rights.
>> Rights guaranteed by UAE Constitution: The UAE Constitution outlines the freedoms and rights of all citizens.
It prohibits torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and protects civil liberties, including freedom of speech and press; peaceful assembly and association; and the practice of religious beliefs.
All people, irrespective of their race, nationality, religion and social position, are equal before the law.
>> Discrimination is a crime in UAE: By law, discrimination is a crime. You can report discrimination through online channels of the UAE police forces across the country, or file a lawsuit through judicial authorities.
You may also report discrimination experienced at the workplace through the online channels of the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation for the private sector employees and through the online channels of the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources (FAHR), which is responsible for human resources grievances in the government sector.
>> Women’s rights: Women in the UAE enjoy the same constitutional rights as men. They have access to education, jobs, social and health benefits.
In general, women occupy top leadership positions in the UAE. As of 2015, women occupy 66 per cent of public sector jobs, one of the highest proportions worldwide. Of late, a string of legislations have taken Emirati women to new heights.
The UAE was ranked 18th globally and the first regionally in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2020 Gender Inequality Index (GII), becoming a global leader in the empowerment of women and their rights.
>> Child rights: By law, guardians are required to provide children education, good health and other facilities.
Federal Law No. 3 of 2016 concerning child rights, also known as Wadeema’s Law, stresses that all children must be provided with appropriate living standards, access to health services, education, equal opportunities in essential services and facilities without any kind of discrimination.
The law protects children against all forms of negligence, exploitation, physical and psychological abuses.
>> Workers’ rights: The UAE has re-evaluated every aspect of working in the country from recruitment to housing, ensuring that all immigrant workers are treated respectfully and able to report instances of mistreatment easily.
Charging recruitment fees to prospective employees is illegal in the UAE. The confiscation of workers' passports is prohibited, and workers do not require their employer's permission to leave the country.
>> National Human Rights Authority: Approved in December 2020, the authority will be granted financial and administrative independence to carry out its tasks.
It will advance the UAE’s efforts in protecting human rights and safeguarding the rights of women, children, labourers, the elderly, people of determination and the vulnerable.
>> Combatting human trafficking: The UAE condemns, prohibits and penalises human trafficking through a comprehensive action plan to fight it regionally and abroad. The plan includes: Prevention of human trafficking, prosecution and punishment of traffickers, protection of survivors and promotion of international cooperation.
Under a federal law, human trafficking includes all forms of sexual exploitation, engaging others in prostitution, servitude, forced labour, organ trafficking, coerced service, enslavement, begging and quasi-slavery practices. In addition, the law ensures that a person aware of a human trafficking crime and failing to report it can be punished.
>> Fostering tolerance and co-existence: To promote tolerance, the UAE established a Ministry for Tolerance and Coexistence; launched the National Tolerance Programme; and set up centres to counter extremism.
>> Anti-discrimination/anti-hatred law: The law criminalises any acts that trigger religious hatred and/or insult religion through any form of expression, which covers speech and the written word, books, pamphlets or online media.
The law prohibits any act that would be considered as insulting God, His prophets or apostles or holy books or houses of worship or graveyards.
>> Rights of people of determination: The UAE guarantees equality to people of determination (people with disabilities or those with special needs).
According to a federal law, a person's special needs shall not be a reason to deprive him/her of rights and services especially in welfare as well as social, economic, health, educational, professional, cultural and leisure services.
>> Rights of inmates: Correctional facilities in the UAE observe human rights and serve as rehabilitation facilities.
The UAE implements the Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of prisoners (SMR) in punitive and correctional institutions nationwide. Inmates receive their full rights in rehabilitation, medical care, nutrition, and communicating with their families and lawyers.
(Source: KT news articles and official UAE Government website)
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