Member of United Arab Emirates ruling family implicated in ‘torture’ video

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities have announced that they will open an investigation into allegations of serious criminal assault committed by a member of the country’s ruling family, after a graphic video had been recently circulated.

The video shows Sheikh ‘Issa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, brother of the UAE president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, hitting a defenceless man with a board from which a nail is protruding, setting light to his pubic hair, choking him with sand and driving a motor vehicle over him, apparently breaking his limbs.

Two other people including a uniformed police officer can be seen assisting in the assault, believed to have been committed in Abu Dhabi in 2004.

The six minutes of footage, given to US media organization ABC, is said to be part of a longer sequence of a film of the same assault. It is one of a number of films of criminal assaults alleged to have been carried out by Sheikh ‘Issa bin Zayed Al Nahyan on a number of individuals in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE authorities are reported to have long been aware of the evidence of the assault but to date have failed to act on it and to bring criminal charges.

A UAE Ministry of Interior statement given to ABC claimed that the matter was “settled privately” between the Sheikh and the man he assaulted over a business dispute. The victim is said to be an Afghan national named Mohammad Shah Poor.

The statement said that neither man wished to bring charges against the other. It also contended that “all rules, policies and procedures were followed correctly by the Police Department” but failed to provide any details of the official investigation or to explain why the authorities did not consider it a criminal offence.

This has prompted concern that the Sheikh was not held to account because of his position and influence as a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family.

In its letter to Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Amnesty International urged that a thorough, independent investigation be established immediately.

The organization called on the UAE government to clarify publicly what steps, if any, it has taken to investigate this and other allegations of criminal assaults by Sheikh ‘Issa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. It also called on the government to clarify the involvement and complicity of members of the UAE police and possibly other officials in either assisting such criminal acts or in helping cover them up to assist the perpetrators to escape justice.

Amnesty International said that even if the victim of the assault had agreed to settle the matter “privately”, as the Interior Ministry statement contends, this did not absolve the UAE authorities of their responsibility to investigate what appears clearly to have been a serious criminal assault and to hold the perpetrators to account under the law of the UAE.

Responding to the publicity arising from the release of the film footage and international expressions of concern, the UAE authorities announced that they would open an investigation.

On 29 April, they said that the government of Abu Dhabi “unequivocally condemns the actions depicted on the video” and that “the events depicted on the video appear to represent a violation of human rights” which should be “fully reviewed in their own right.”

It remains unclear whether Sheikh ‘Issa bin Zayed Al Nahyan or others have been arrested or are facing charges in connection with the filmed assault on Mohammad Shah Poor. His present whereabouts are unknown.