SNP frontbencher in hot-water over UAE visit

Stephen Gethins, the SNP's Westminster spokesperson for Foreign Affairs has come under fire for taking part in an all-expenses paid trip by the United Arab Emirates government in March, despite the Gulf state's alleged war crimes in Yemen.

Gethins’ trip, worth around £3,000 was paid for entirely by the UAE's foreign affairs ministry. He said the purpose of the visit was to “attend the World Government Summit, meet with government ministers, members of the Federal National Council and senior business figures”.

The UAE has been heavily involved in the intervention in Yemen, supporting southern secessionist forces aligned against both the Houthi-backed government in the North, and Saudi-backed transitional government under President Hadi. UAE forces were deployed to the island of Socotra back in May, and have de facto controlled the island since, despite protests by residents.

According to the UN, UAE airstrikes have contributed heavily to civilian deaths in Yemen, with a report by the OHCHR claiming that coalition forces have failed to "minimise civilian causalities" and stated "The airstrikes have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities."

The SNP has defended the decision to take part in the event in the UAE, with a party spokesperson stating:“Stephen Gethins, used this cross-party delegation to raise the SNP’s serious concerns about the UAE’s actions in Yemen directly with Ministers,”.

“The SNP has long-campaigned against the devastating war in Yemen and will continue to use every avenue available to challenge human rights abuses. The UK government must end its arms sale to these regimes, and join us in condemning the life sentence handed down to Mr Hedges,” the spokesman added.

However the decision to take part was met with outrage by human rights groups, with a spokesman for the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE, stating: “It is disgraceful that Stephen Gethins MP considers it appropriate to accept a hospitality package from an authoritarian regime who routinely violates the basic rights of those within its borders.

“Not so far from where he was no doubt being lavished upon by Emirati officials, scores of academics, students and human rights activists were languishing in jail – condemned for daring to call out repression in their country."

He added: “As Mr Gethins was enjoying his caviar on toast at his five-star hotel, did he spare a thought for Ahmed Mansoor – an award-winning rights activist serving a ten-year sentence for supposedly ‘defaming’ the UAE on social media?"

“Or for the children of Yemen, who stand on the brink of famine as a result of the UAE’s relentless, three-year bombardment of their country. I doubt it. But in reality, it is trips such as these that actively enable such injustices. These MPs must be held to account by their constituents and the British public-at-large, who they serve to represent.”

The Red Robin has reached out to Mr Gethins for a comment, but has not received a statement at time of publication. 

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