At first glance, the United Arab Emirates appears to promote democratic principles. For example, according to the Embassy’s website, the UAE is, “strengthening institutions of government to ensure a transparent legal system with full regard for the quality of life of all citizens and residents.” According to the NGO FreedomHouse.org, the UAE’s 8.1 million citizens are “Not Free” and the CIA’s World Fact Book reports that political parties are not allowed within the government indicating that people cannot participate in the political process.
Cyril Karabus, a doctor from South Africa, was lured to the UAE by the high salaries and therefore began his career (early 2000’s) as a pediatrician in Abu Dhabi. In 2003 Dr. Karabus was convicted of murder in absentia by the government of the UAE. On April 11, 2013 The New York Times reported that this case was, “a stark example of foreign professionals who are drawn to the gulf only to get caught up in Emirati justice.” This past year Dr. Karabus and his family were traveling home to South Africa, through Abu Dhabi, when he was arrested. The government claims that he had misdiagnosed a patient (A 3 year old girl with leukemia) and thus caused her death. This was clearly not true and Dr. Karabus denies these accusations. He was held in custody for seven months and finally released at the end of March. While Karabus was held in custody, the trial was constantly delayed because the prosecutors kept misplacing files.
Due to the fact that the UAE is ruled by an authoritarian regime, there is no transparency within the government, which can be worrisome for many expats who are planning to work in the country. For instance, in 2012, an Austrian doctor in the UAE was convicted (in absentia) of premeditated murder for disconnecting the life-support from one of his patients who was a quadriplegic. On April 4, 2013 the World Medical Association issued a statement, in regards to Dr. Karabus’s case, warning other professionals to be wary of the working environment and the legal implications of potential employment in the UAE.
We as students in the U.S. need to question the legitimacy of the government in the UAE. Although diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the UAE are stable, we must analyze this government under a critical light. Last week, we discussed Saudi Arabia and the lucrative salaries available to foreigners. The story of Dr. Karabus is an important reminder that governments like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar are not what they may appear to be. The U.S. must continue to put diplomatic pressure on these wealthy countries to protect the individual rights of all citizens.