Dozens of British nationals have complained they were tortured or mistreated after being detained by police and security officials in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), figures for the past five years have shown. Foreign Office officials revealed they have had to deal with 37 cases relating to alleged abuse since 2011, raising concerns over the safety of British holidaymakers and expats in what is supposed to be one of the UK's strongest allies.
The figures, provided in response to a parliamentary question, did not detail what each allegation involved, but the number is likely to include the case of three Britons arrested in 2013 while on holiday in Dubai. Grant Cameron, Suneet Jeerh and Karl Williams were jailed for possessing a quantity of synthetic cannabis known as 'spice'.
Eventually pardoned, the three men said they were given electric shocks, beaten and had guns held to their heads by UAE security officials during the seven months they were detained without trial.
Andy Slaughter MP, shadow justice minister, said he was "shocked" at how many more British nationals had alleged mistreatment at the hands of UAE officials. He told IBTimes UK: "It's a lot of people considering it's a country we hold up as one of our allies.
"For a country that purports to uphold human rights abroad, the UK government should be outraged. But what is it doing about it? It's not just raising these issues that counts but how you raise them.
"We don't press human rights issues in the Gulf hard enough. These numbers show a weakness in the UK government's approach."
Slaughter went on to complain of the "change in language" used by Foreign Office ministers when making statements on human rights abuses involving Gulf countries. He suggested lucrative arms deals, and ties to ruling families, dampened the UK government's response when allegations were raised on behalf of British citizens.
In 2014, details of torture allegedly inflicted on two Britons by police in the UAE emerged in Foreign Office documents. Ahmad Zeidan, 22, a student from Berkshire, and Hasnain Ali, 34, from London, were arrested on drugs charges. The pair's allegations included being stripped naked, beaten and threatened with rape.
Human rights organisation Reprieve says Zeidan was tortured into signing a confession which led to his nine-year jail sentence. In August of last year, he issued an emotional plea for help in which he revealed he had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder due to torture. He accused the UK government of abandoning him, saying it refused to pressure for his release.
Last month, evidence published by the Guardian reportedly showed authorities in the UAE repeatedly subjecting other foreign nationals in detention to "electric shocks, beatings and other abuses". Sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said this included beating them with rods, sometimes in what was called a "boxing ring" and sometimes while suspended from a chain.
Other torture techniques described included prying off fingernails, pouring insects on to the inmates, dousing prisoners with cold water in front of a fan, sleep deprivation for up to 20 days, threats of rape and sexual harassment, and sexual abuse.
Amnesty International UK complained it had been repeatedly denied entry to the UAE to monitor human rights abuses. Drewery Dyke, Amnesty researcher for the UAE, told IBTimes UK: "We've repeatedly raised specific cases of torture with the UAE authorities, both over Emirati nationals and foreign nationals.
"Our research indicates that in recent years the UAE security agencies have repeatedly used torture, while deeply flawed trials have also relied on court evidence derived from torture or ill-treatment. Meanwhile, the UAE authorities have denied entry to Amnesty and other human rights groups – which appears to be a further example of official hostility to human rights in the country."
Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood said: "The FCO takes all allegations, or concerns of torture and mistreatment, seriously and takes action appropriate to the circumstances of each case, including raising these with the Emirati authorities where we have permission from the individual."
The UAE embassy in London failed to return multiple calls when approached for comment by IBTimes UK.