DUBAI: Human Right Watch voiced concern on Wednesday over the decision of authorities in the United Arab Emirates to close the offices of two democracy advocacy groups.
UAE authorities last week shut down the office of German think-tank the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, in Abu Dhabi, and that of the US National Democratic Institute in Dubai.
“The UAE authorities have not offered any explanation as to why they have targeted Konrad Adenauer foundation and the NDI offices. It’s important that the government explains its actions,” said UAE researcher at HRW Samer Muscati.
“Given the pro-democracy mandate of these two organizations, it appears that their offices were closed as part of a larger campaign against those demanding democratic change within the UAE,” he told AFP.
The German foreign ministry said last week that it invited the UAE ambassador to Berlin to underline the “positive work of the foundation” and seek a “common solution” to reopen its Abu Dhabi office.
The shuttering of the office, which was opened in 2009, came after Egypt closed the foundation’s centre in Cairo in December.
The National Democratic Institute’s office in Cairo was also raided as part of the same swoop by the Egyptian authorities.
US State Secretary Hillary Clinton discussed the matter with her UAE counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahayan, in Riyadh on Saturday.
Muscati said there was a growing nervousness and anxiety by UAE authorities about developments in the region.
“Since the Arab Spring, we have seen growing calls by Emiratis, particularly on social media, for increased rights and freedoms,” he said.
“The authorities are trying their best to quell this movement,” he added.
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders on Sunday condemned the “arrests and trials of netizens” in the country, listing a number of activists arrested for expressing their opinion on online social network.
Ahmed Ghaith Al-Suwaidi was arrested in Abu Dhabi on 26 March without a warrant, along with Judge Ahmed Yousef Zaabi, a fellow activist, it said, adding that the two men were still being held without charge.
Oil-rich UAE provides its citizens, who form a minority of the expat-dominated population, with a cradle-to-grave care.
It was spared anti-regime protests and social unrest that hit many Arab countries since last year.