Linking Arms in Repression – the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates

In May 2016, Manu Luksch travelled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to research regional ‘smart city’ initiatives and to interview renowned social media activist Ahmed Mansoor Al Shehhi (أحمد منصور الشحي). Mansoor received the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders for his committed support of the many ‘disappeared’ dissidents in the UAE. He has been dubbed ‘The Last Emirati Human Rights Activist’, and ‘The Million Dollar Dissident’ (after what it cost the UAE to crack Mansoor’s iPhone).

In 2017, Mansoor was arrested and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, for his online activities of (allegedly) ‘promoting false and shaded information’ and ‘serving agendas aimed at spreading hatred and sectarianism’. In reality, an absolute monarchy effectively silenced a persistent and persuasive critic. Or so they thought…

On 11th October 2017, Alistair Carmichael MP chaired a Parliamentary Seminar in Westminster, London to explore the UK–UAE trading relationship in light of an announced increase in bilateral trade to £25bn by 2020. A central question was how this deal squared with the appalling track record of human rights violations in the UAE. Particular attention was paid to the sale of cyber surveillance technology by BAE Systems to the UAE regime for spying on its own citizens. On being called to the Seminar as a witness, Manu Luksch yielded the platform to (a video recording of) Ahmed Mansoor – the key figure protesting these violations, and a victim of state surveillance, now brutally incarcerated himself.

HD video, 10minutes, English subtitles

_ The seminar was initiated by International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE). Speakers: Joe Odell of ICFUAE; Ann Feltham – Parliamentary Co-Ordinator for Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which is a UK-based organisation working to end the international arms trade; James Shires – DPhil candidate in International Relations and Research Affiliate at the Cyber Studies Programme, at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford

_ Exhibitions: 2019 DataLoam, AIL Vienna