Friday, 16 April 2021 07:00 GMT

Lending a human touch to rights for one and all

(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) E Emirates Human Rights Association has opened its doors to one and all irrespective of nationality or race.In a move that adds an extra dimension to its overall plans the Emirates Human Rights Association (EHRA) has opened up its membership to anyone who wishes to join it irrespective of nationality or race.

In a forum Khaleej Times held with the members of the association and its ad-hoc committees on its strategy and work they called on people to join it as active members.

They shed light on their upcoming mission in a procedural hearing the State Security Circuit of the Federal Supreme Court will hold on August 11 in which a number of Emiratis and non-Emiratis will stand trial on the charge of being members of terrorist organisations. The panel ... Khalid Al Hosani Salem Al Kaabi Obaid Al Shamsi and Jamila Al Hamli

The association members called on businessmen and private companies to donate to the association and spoke about the importance of the civil society. These oraginsations they said will benefit from the role played by the association in maintaining labour rights.

The association is also planning on educating the public about human rights. The initiative includes the distribution of brochures at airports shopping malls and public places explaining workers’ human rights and how to exercise them among other instructions which will guarantee the freedom of an individual. Review of complaints

EHRA secretary-general Khalid Al Hosani said complaints can be sent to the association by post e-mail telephone or in person but it has to be given in writing to be sanctioned.

“The nine-member complaints committee reviews the complaint and forwards it to the authorities concerned if the matter does not fall under its purview. Members of the board of directors contact the bodies concerned directly” Al Hosani said.

He cited the example of a Syrian man who called him at 2am from Sharjah International Airport saying there was slight difference in the name of his two-year-old boy on the visa and the passport which prompted the officer on duty to deny access to the boy as well as his family.

Al Hosani said he contacted the officer who allowed them to enter the country on the condition that they would check with them the very next day. Labour complaints

Labour complaints showed a drop between 30 to 40 per cent due to various awareness campaigns launched by the association said Salem Al Kaabi chairman of the EHRA. “Members of the association visited many labour residential compounds where workers were briefed about their rights and the mechanism of submitting a complaint.”

The association’s Labour and Labourers’ Committee received 87 complaints last year including malicious reports about absconding workers arbitrary termination of service withholding employees’ passports by company management and refusal to pay gratuity.

Al Hosani said 90 per cent of the complaints did not fall under the association’s purview as they are applications for financial assistance family problems and so on. “When handling a complaint we do not consider the nationality race or the religion of the complainant.”

The association’s job Al Kaabi said is to find out if an employee had been terminated arbitrarily. “We then review and investigate the case. If the complainant was subjected to injustice the relevant authority and the employer concerned will be contacted until the problem is eventually settled.

“The problem we face is that some people ... take advantage of the association and pretend that their human rights were violated.”

Al Kaabi cited the example of a complaint sent by the parent of a schoolboy who was run over by a motorist on front of his school. The police reports however showed that the motorist was driving well within the speed limit and that the boy had fallen in front of the car. Awareness initiatives

Mona Al Hamrani head of the Media Committee said the association has laid down an action plan in creating a sense of awareness among the expatriates about their human rights.

The plan includes the distribution of a bilingual booklet in Arabic and English on labour laws which has 212 questions and answers on the issue. “We are keen to translate the booklet into several languages since over 205 nationalities live and work in the UAE.”

Al Kaabi said an EHRA delegation visited the country’s reformatories and sent the feedback they received from the inmates to the Ministry of Interior. “One of the complaints we received was about the lack of warm water in a facility. We spoke to the police chief in the emirate and the issue was resolved within a week.” Muslim Brotherhood trial

Commenting on a trial in which 94 dissidents were charged with forming an organisation — linked to the banned Muslim Brotherhood — with an aim to seize power Jamila Al Hamli the EHRA’s treasurer and part of the team which handled the case said: “The case was the biggest in terms of the offence committed and the number of accused. The case gained attention due to the large number of Emiratis involved in it and the media focus.

“However reports prepared by foreign news agencies and human rights organisations were mostly incorrect.

“We received complaints from the relatives of the detainees then. We followed each one of them up but the EHRA faced criticism because relatives of the detainees wanted prompt answers which we did not have as the investigations hadn’t been completed. We set up a team based on a directive issued by the former EHRA chairman and incumbent EHRA honorary chairman Abdulghaffar Hussain to visit the detainees.”

Al Hamli said the team visited the detainees when they were being questioned by the public prosecution. “In a Press conference we revealed how due procedure had been followed while handling the case.”

She said the State Security Circuit at the Federal Supreme Court will hold a procedural hearing session on August 11 to try a group of Emiratis and non-Emiratis accused of joining a terrorist organisation. Financial crunch

Al Kaabi said the EHRA is facing a shortage in financial resources and does not have the budget to pay the salaries of employees. “To fill the gap members of the board of directors of the EHRA pay the salaries from their own pockets since the amount allocated by the Ministry of Social Affairs to all societies of public interest in the country is not enough to meet even half of the secretaries’ pay.

“We appeal to businessmen and private companies to contribute and support the EHRA financially since it would help us play our role better in maintaining human rights” he said.

The new board of directors that was elected a few months ago received Dh15000 in value of the membership fees collected from its members. The EHRA also received a Dh50000 financial aid from the Ministry of Social Affairs.

The UAE has facilitated private companies and businessmen to make huge profits as the country does not impose any tax said Al Kaabi. Consequently these companies should contribute to supporting the civil society.

“We have obtained a plot of land and financial aid in order to construct a new headquarters. The structure is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The current building we are functioning from does not belong to the EHRA and its lease ends by the end of this year as well” he explained. Action plan

Al Kaabi said the EHRA laid down a four-year plan of action during a brainstorming session with the members of the association. The session heard the views and expectations about the association from its members following which they were incorporated and panels set up.

The new strategy aims at increasing the membership at the EHRA and extending it to anybody who can contribute to the association’s cause irrespective of nationality or race. Anybody having ideas that could help develop the association can apply for its membership. “In the end what we do is serve the society for the public good.”

Obaid Al Shamsi a member of the EHRA’s board of directors who also serves as the head of the Public Relations Panel pointed out: “We created the EHRA pages on some social networking sites like Facebook Twitter and Instagram in order to enlighten the society about the activities and programmes we carry out.”

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