UK Foreign Office should apologise to British academic for 'failing to protect' him from torture by UAE

UK Foreign Office should apologise to British academic for 'failing to protect' him from torture by UAE
2 min read
05 August, 2023
A parliamentary watchdog has said the Foreign Office should apologise and compensate Matthew Hedges or failing to protect him from torture, after he was arrested by the UAE and falsely accused of spying for MI6.
Matthew Hedges was effectively abandoned by the UK government during his ordeal [Getty]

The UK Foreign Office should apologise to a British academic for failing to protect him from torture after he was arrested by the UAE and falsely accused of spying for MI6, a parliamentary watchdog said Thursday.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman recommended that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) should apologise to Matthew Hedges and pay him £1,500 in compensation.

Additionally, the FCDO was told that it should publicly demonstrate how it will ensure its handling of similar circumstances is brought into line with guidelines for protecting British citizens abroad, according to The Telegraph.

Hedges was arrested in 2015 at Dubai Airport while trying to leave the UAE. The academic claims he was then tortured, interrogated for up to 15 hours at a time, and forced to take drugs, without any real access to legal counsel.

He was sentenced by a court to 25 years in jail for "spying for or on behalf of" the UK, but was later pardoned by the Emirati government.

Perspectives

It took a month following his arrest before he was granted a meeting with a British consular officer.

"Of course, the UAE is responsible for the torture and abuse that I suffered, but the reluctance of the FCDO to protect me .. was one of the most shocking things to deal with during that time," Hedges told The Telegraph.

Hedges also claims that Jeremy Hunt, the  foreign secretary at the time, promised him that there would be a full review of the FDCO, but that no such review ever occurred.

"Nothing will ever make up for what I went through, but it feels like a semblance of justice to know that the behaviour of the Foreign Office was unacceptable and to have their failure to protect recognised," Hedges said of the verdict.

The FCDO has promised to review and respond to the Ombudsman’s findings.