07:06, July 18 64 0 theguardian.com

2019-07-18 07:06:05
British football fan detained in UAE lodges human rights complaint

A British football fan who says he was detained and tortured while on holiday in the United Arab Emirates because he wore a football T-shirt supporting Qatar, has lodged a landmark legal complaint with the UN about his treatment.

In the 27-page complaint Ali Issa Ahmad, 26, from Wolverhampton, documents his alleged torture at the hands of the UAE authorities in January and February of this year while he was visiting the country to watch Asian Cup matches.

He alleges the ill treatment he experienced included electric shocks during interrogation, stabbings, deprivation of food, water and sleep, and racist abuse. He claims he was called “fucking black”, “donkey” and “dog”. Ahmad also alleges he was punched in the face – knocking out one of his teeth – and had a plastic bag placed over his head for several minutes.

In the legal letter to the UN human rights high commissioner, his lawyer Rodney Dixon QC said that Ahmad’s treatment in the UAE breached his human rights including freedom of expression, the right not to be tortured and the right not to be arbitrarily arrested and detained, the Guardian understands.

The UN has been asked to intervene in previous cases involving prisoners of conscience. But it is highly unusual for an ordinary football fan to approach the UN and ask it to intervene with a national government in this way.

Ahmad has called on the UN to ensure that the UAE provides an effective remedy for his suffering, including compensation.

Last week he lodged a complaint with Fifa claiming that the football organisation breached its human rights policy by failing to protect him while he was watching a match. Ahmad has also asked the UK Foreign Office to investigate his case.

Ahmad’s problems began after the match between Iraq and Qatar on 22 January 2019 in the Al Nahyan stadium in Abu Dhabi, part of the Asian Cup football tournament. It was after that match that Ahmad says he was approached by UAE security officials because he was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a Qatari logo.

He was unaware that on 7 June 2017, after formally severing links with Qatar, the UAE’s attorney general announced that showing sympathy for Qatar was punishable with three to 15 years in jail.

Ahmad said: “Nobody should ever have to suffer what I did simply for wearing a T-shirt with a flag of a country on it.”

Dixon, head of Ahmad’s legal team, said: “It is a disgrace that Ali was tortured so cruelly and gratuitously while attending an international football tournament in the UAE. No football fan should have to endure this kind of inhuman and racist treatment.”

The UAE denies Ahmad’s claims of being tortured. A UAE official accused him of lying and “attention-seeking” and added Ahmad had been charged with wasting police time and giving false statements.

The official said: “He was categorically not arrested for wearing a Qatar football shirt. This is instead an instance of a person seeking media attention and wasting police time.”

Ahmad is not the only British citizen to have experienced arrest and detention in the UAE. A freedom of information response obtained by the Guardian revealed that between 2016 and 2018 more than 1,000 British citizens were arrested and detained in the UAE.

The men’s football World Cup is due to be held in Qatar in 2022.

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