Human Rights Watch has slammed the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Dubai Expo 2020 as an attempt to obscure the Gulf country’s human rights violations.
The expo, which begins on Friday and is being promoted as the Middle East’s first-ever international fair, is part of a decades-long drive by the UAE to “whitewash its image and obscure its abuses,” according to Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).
He urged countries taking part in the months-long event, which has been in the works for eight years, to avoid becoming complicit. The harsh statement came just days after the European Parliament urged for a boycott of the expo, citing worries over human rights.
“Expo 2020 is yet another opportunity for the UAE to falsely present itself on the world stage as open, tolerant, and rights-respecting while shutting down the space for politics, public discourse, and activism,” Page said.
The organization specifically highlighted allegations that the UAE “carried out a sustained assault on freedom of expression and association, arresting and prosecuting hundreds of independent lawyers, judges, teachers, students, and activists, and shutting down key civil society associations and the offices of foreign organizations, effectively crushing any space for dissent.”
The UN specialists and human rights researchers, as well as critical media and academics, continue to be denied access by the government, according to the organization.
The event, which will last 182 days, will be attended by 192 countries, according to organizers.