Jamie Harron will surely breathe a sigh of relief as he heads back home and reunites with his family and friends, but the depressing memories will haunt him in the coming days and that is when he needs the support.
This is a story of another person who had a first hand experience like Jamie and it’s a lot worse than you think. The legal system in Dubai is corrupted and weak, one that discriminates against the people from west, especially the Brits.
The story of the person we are talking works with the prisoner advocacy service detained in Dubai, run by lawyer and activist Rahda Stirling. Just before the news of Jamie’s release broke out, a call was made to the German company that employed his accuser, a Dubai-based German businessman.
It was found that the man who claimed Jamie had touched him had actually withdrawn his complaint, but the UAE officials were dragging the case.
Apart from Jamie’s case, there are many cases were people are going through horrific time in Dubai, many of them are being physically and sexually abused by the police for just holding their hand of their girlfriend, having a drink in public place, or just for using social media.
Here’s a personal story of the person we are talking about:
Like Jamie, I was lured by promises of a cosmopolitan lifestyle in Dubai. For many years, it had been my dream “home away from home” before it turned into the place of my nightmares.
Then a managing director for Leeds United, I had been involved in negotiations to acquire the football club from a United Arab Emirates-based company. This had quickly turned sour and we were forced to initiate legal action against them for breach of contract.
In most other countries, this might simply be a legal dispute between two businesses. However, after I flew to Dubai for what I thought was a meeting to resolve outstanding issues, I was arrested and held on fraud and embezzlement criminal charges. Afterwards, the same company filed a criminal complaint against me that I had abused them on Twitter while I was in jail. The case took six months and seven hearings before I was acquitted in March last year.
The only way to describe being in prison in Dubai is hell. I was held for 22 months and I’ll never forget it – the stench, the dirt, the smell, the heat, and the lack of any information whatsoever.
I was punched, Tasered, beaten and raped. The worst of this abuse was perpetrated by the prison guards and police.
I lost a lot of weight through stress. Once, when I asked for some painkillers, a guard hit me over the head with a broom handle. When someone’s beating you or hurting you in whatever form, in a weird way you can deal with that. What I found more harrowing was seeing them do it to other prisoners in front of everyone.
I remember an occasion where they brought a man in from the street, threw him on the floor and stood on his neck, three of them. You cannot imagine how that constant threat of abuse makes you feel. All around you people are being raped, and abused – you get these young kids who come in and get raped. The way they treated people from India and Pakistan was far worse. In that sort of environment, you’re surrounded by the most depraved depths of humanity.
My first mistake was assuming was that I would find protection from the British Embassy in Dubai. I had also hoped to get support from some of retired English judges who are employed by the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts. I wrote to them on many occasions requesting that my case be heard, and pleading with them to help stop the torture and abuse. My complaints fell on deaf ears and I was completely ignored.
Dubai is not a safe place, despite its shiny exterior. Beneath lays a brutal and cold system that is ripe for exploitation by unscrupulous UAE businesses. Mine and Jamie’s are not the only cases. Each case follows a similar pattern: wealthy Emiratis taking advantage of weak laws and corruption, wrongfully extorting civil settlements and stifling any legal threat against them. Dubai is effectively the world’s first corporate jail.
Of course, it is absolutely right that visitors should be respectful of the laws and customs of individual countries. However, punishment is handed out on the filmiest excuses. While I was in prison, I met hundreds of expats who were imprisoned for things they didn’t know were illegal.
After the initial euphoria of coming back to the UK, I began getting intense flashbacks. That really started to affect me. At one point I was taking up to 15 pills a day for depression and sleeping problems in addition to morphine. I was like a zombie.
Fortunately, Jamie has escaped the worst part after he was released on the special order of the UAE Prime Minister and ruler of Dubai. The decision might have been due to the international pressure.
But, what about other who do not have any media support? The judicial system cannot be trusted as it is already flawed and the only thing that can come to their rescue is money, which most of them cannot afford.
The civil and criminal law advisory Stirling Haigh helps those who are caught in UAE’s legal system. The aim is to help those who cannot afford legal help by crowdfunding support and ensure they are legally represented, have funds to pay for court fees and have access to food and medicine.