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UAE 'forcibly disappeared' and deported several Pakistani Shia men

Six of the 10 men who went missing last year were deported, while the location of four others is still unknown, says HRW
Between 2009 and 2016, HRW and local media documented the deportation of hundreds of Lebanese Shia residents living in the UAE (AFP)

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) forcibly disappeared and deported several Pakistani men who were of Shia origin last year from the Gulf country, according to a US-based rights group. 

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said six of the 10 men, who were detained in the UAE between October and December 2020, were deported without explanation.

The six men were not given a chance to appeal against their fate, nor told why they had been deported or given a chance to settle their affairs before being permanently expelled from the country. 

The whereabouts of the other four men detained by the UAE remains unknown, with neither their families nor friends having being informed of their location. 

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"The UAE claims that it respects freedom and diversity, but arbitrarily disappearing and deporting long-time Shia residents indicates that this tolerance and respect does not extend to all religious sects," said Michael Page, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division at HRW. 

“UAE state security forces have a long record of enforced disappearances with total impunity, leaving detainees and their family members frightened, confused and hopeless.

“The behaviour of unaccountable UAE authorities is an open mockery of the rule of law and leaves no one safe from serious abuses.”

None of the deported men was formally charged by the Emiratis or had the opportunity to challenge their deportations formally, the organisation said.

Handcuffed and blindfolded

HRW spoke to relatives of the 10 men, who said they were never charged or given any legal counsel and consular assistance while detained by the Emiratis.

Most of the men deported had lived and worked in the UAE for several years. One man worked as a chief executive for more than 40 years, and another of the men was born and raised in the UAE. 

One of the deported men told HRW how he had been picked up by the UAE authorities.

He described being ill-treated, including being handcuffed and blindfolded, while being taking from one location to another. 

He said he was subjected to interrogations that lasted between five and 10 hours and was denied sleep and warmth.

Another of the deported men told HRW he was detained for nearly a month by the UAE without explanation and later deported in December 2020. 

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"No one knew where I was for 21 days," said the man. 

'How can we prove our sons are innocent?'

A family member of one of the four forcibly disappeared men, who has been unreachable since October, said: "If they have been arrested, I want to know what the crime is. If there is a case against them, then we can think about how to fight the case.

"But if we don't know what the charges are, how can we prove that our sons are innocent?"

The relatives of the 10 men said they had heard of other Pakistani Shias who had faced arrest by the Emirati authorities. 

The UAE has previously targeted Shia residents and reportedly arrested individuals from Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan. 

Between 2009 and 2016, HRW and local media documented the deportation of hundreds of Lebanese Shia residents living in the UAE without any opportunity to challenge their deportations. 

Some of the Lebanese Shia residents deported from the UAE were accused of having links to Hezbollah and Iran.