Human rights abuses in UAE
Monday 06 May 2013 by John Hyde
Who? Graeme Irvine, 39, partner and higher courts advocate at London human rights firm ITN Solicitors.
Why is he in the news? Coinciding with the state visit to the UK of Sheikh Khalifa, president of the UAE, Irvine has written a report on human rights abuses in the Emirates.
The report, published by NGO the Emirates Centre for Human Rights, concerns a state security trial of 94 defendants accused of ‘attempting to overthrow the government and undermine the establishment’, an offence carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment.
The defendants deny the allegations and counter that they are being punished for signing a public petition in 2011 asking the president to establish a democratically elected parliament.
Thoughts on the case: ‘A defendant in this case, lawyer Dr Mohammed Al-Roken, acted for suspects in a similar trial last year, and states that his arrest is a punishment for that. In spite of this, defence lawyers in this trial still choose to advance their own clients’ human rights, and I am in awe of their bravery.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘Growing up in a single-parent family in a sink estate in the north-east during the years of the miners’ strike gives you a feel for injustice.’
Dealing with the media: ‘Predominantly positive, the concept of human rights has been twisted by reactionary sections of the media into a folk devil. It has been interesting to speak to journalists and hear their own views on this case as opposed to the editorial line.’
Career low: ‘The destruction of legal aid. It is reckless vandalism of a cornerstone of the welfare state. For the first time in our history, legal aid propelled a generation of lawyers from the working classes and ethnic minority groups into practice, lawyers with different stories and different world views.’
Career high: ‘Every acquittal, every grant of bail, every successful mitigation – making a difference.’