Freedom in the World
United Arab Emirates
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
In January 2010, a United Arab Emirates (UAE) court acquitted Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan of torturing an Afghani merchant in 2008. That same month, a British woman who had complained to Emirati police that she had been raped was instead charged with having illegal sex with her fiancé. The government in February began blocking access to the popular website UAE Hewar, an online platform for political and social discussion. In October, the government abandoned a controversial plan to limit messaging and email services for owners of Blackberry smartphones.
Attacks on shipping off the coast of what is now the United Arab Emirates (UAE) led the British to mount military expeditions against the local tribal rulers in the early 19th century. A series of treaties followed, including a long-term maritime truce in 1853 and an 1892 pact giving Britain control over foreign policy. The seven sheikhdoms of the area subsequently became known as the Trucial States. In 1971, Britain announced that it was ending its treaty relationships in the region, and six of the seven Trucial States formed the UAE federation. Ras al-Khaimah, the seventh state, joined in 1972. The provisional constitution left significant power in the hands of each emirate.
The UAE is not an electoral democracy. All decisions about political leadership rest with the dynastic rulers of the seven emirates, who form the Federal Supreme Council, the highest executive and legislative body in the country. The seven leaders select a president and vice president, and the president appoints a prime minister and cabinet. The UAE has a 40-member Federal National Council (FNC), half of which was elected for the first time in 2006 by a 6,689-member electoral college chosen by the seven rulers. The other half of the council is directly appointed by the government for two-year terms. The council serves only as an advisory body, reviewing proposed laws and questioning federal government ministers. The government failed to hold FNC elections scheduled for 2010.