Pope must raise human rights violations with UAE: Amnesty
Amnesty International has called on Pope Francis to raise the cases of jailed human rights defenders during his visit to the UAE.
The rights group's statement comes amid efforts by the Gulf state to present a positive international image by promoting its national 'Year of Tolerance'.
The pope kicked off his visit to the UAE on Sunday, marking the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula as part of an effort to boost the Vatican's outreach to Islam.
In his first public appearance during the tour, the pope called for urgent "respect" for a ceasefire accord in Yemen to allow humanitarian aid through in the conflict-weary country.
Amnesty have said that the papal visit should not be used as an opportunity to mask over human rights violations taking place within the UAE.
Last month, the UN's human rights commissioner pulled out of a literary festival in Dubai over the detention of Emirati rights activist Ahmed Mansoor, due to take place in March.
Pope Francis, who has made strengthening ties between the two largest religions a cornerstone of his papacy, is due to meet with the UAE's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, on Monday.
On Tuesday, he will hold an open-air mass for 135,0000 worshippers.
Human Rights Watch also urged the pope to speak out against UAE abuses of prisoners and civilians in the bloody Yemen war - which has cost at least 13,000 lives - and domestic rights abuses.
"Despite its assertions about tolerance, the UAE government has demonstrated no real interest in improving its human rights record," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
"But the UAE has shown how sensitive it is to its image on the global stage, and Pope Francis should use his visit to press UAE leaders to meet their human rights obligations at home and abroad."