• Radha Stirling

​Law firm Dechert sued in London for human rights abuses in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE


Dechert lawyers sued for human rights violations over treatment of prisoner in UAE

The London office of Dechert, a major international law firm allegedly crossed the line into criminal abuse and torture in their work for Ras Al Khaimah’s ruler, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qassimi; according to a lawsuit filed against the Firm in London today, naming two prominent London lawyers among the defendants. This claim was filed in the High Court of Justice by Jordanian national Karam Sadeq and is attached.

The suit claims that Dechert’s global co-head of white-collar crime, Neil Gerrard, acting on behalf of Dechert and with the authority of Sheikh Saud, interrogated, intimidated, and tortured claimant Sadeq over a period of several months; eventually forcing him to sign a false confession.

Sadeq had worked for Sheikh Saud’s father, former RAK ruler Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, at the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA), and was one of a slew of top executives purged when Sheikh Saud came to power. Saud annulled contracts and withdrew RAKIA from projects negotiated under the management appointed by his father, and levelled charges against senior staff. Karam Sadeq was among those accused. RAK claimed that commissions Sadeq earned while working for RAKIA were illegal and amounted to embezzlement, though the commissions were approved by the CEO of RAKIA at the time.

On September 4, 2014, Sadeq was driving back with his family after visiting relatives when he was stopped at the entrance of his home in Dubai by a black jeep. He was confronted by several men only identifying themselves as being “from investigations”, and he was forced into the vehicle, handcuffed, blindfolded, and driven to General Police Headquarters in Ras Al Khaimah where he was thrown into an underground solitary confinement cell at the police headquarters. No charges were made, but Sadeq was told he was being held over accusations of bribery and embezzlement. He was denied access to a lawyer and not allowed to make a phone call.

The following day Sadeq was interrogated by a representative of the Ruler’s Court, and interrogations continued for nine days. Sadeq was eventually told the reason for his detention:, “He told me and I quote ‘the Ruler and the Ruler’s Court are sending you a message that either you cooperate with us or you will never see the light of day again’” Sadeq remembers, “I asked what was requested of me. He told me to testify against Khater Massaad, the head of the RAK Investment Authority, Jihad Quzmar the Head of Legal Affairs for the Authority, and against Sheikh Faisal Bin Saqer Al Qasimi, the brother of the Sheikh Saud Bin Saqer Al Qasimi, the Ruler of RAK. I told him that if there were any specific questions about the individuals he mentioned which I can answer I will immediately, as I have nothing to hide or be afraid of, however, I will not speak generally about them. After which the Major (Hammad Al Awdhi) told me that I will be staying with them for "a long time.”

It was then that Neil Gerrard began to conduct interrogations of Karam Sadeq. At midnight on September 9th, Sadeq was brought blindfolded and handcuffed into a room where Gerrard introduced himself as the lawyer representing Sheikh Saud, and began questioning him. “They threatened me and he gestured to me to sit on the ground. I was blindfolded and my hands were tied behind my back and he told me if I did not cooperate with them, I would not see the streets ever again,” Sadeq recounted, “This was all in the RAK Police General Headquarters. This scene was later repeated in the public prosecution, the offices of Dechert being represented by the British lawyer Neil Gerrard and also David Hughes who were involved in everything that happened to me in terms of my arrest, insults, restrictions and the threatening of my family. He would tell my wife that her husband was cheating on her and he sent a man from the RAK Security to correspond with her and they told her that her husband is a cheater and every day he is with a woman.” On one occasion, Sadeq states that Gerrard told him “nothing will happen that I do not want”, and that he claimed “I am the law”.

David Hughes, formerly of Dechert, is now a Partner of Stewarts Law.

“Mr. Sadeq was in solitary confinement for 600 days,” says Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, who represents Karam Sadeq. “His treatment has been abhorrent; physical and psychological abuse, denial of due process, forced confession, threats and torture; it is utterly horrendous. While we have documented multiple other incidences of such human rights abuses committed by UAE law enforcement under what we know is an authoritarian government, this is the first time we have seen British solicitors accused of carrying out such crimes themselves on behalf of the regime.

“We have represented several clients wrongfully prosecuted in Ras Al Khaimah, and currently represent multiple people victimised by Sheikh Saud’s purge of RAKIA, including Oussama El Omari and Johnson George; and we are fully aware of the prevalence of corruption within RAK’s government, police, prosecutor’s office and judiciary; even Customs officials have been implicated in extortion and the fabrication of evidence; Sheikh Saud himself was reportedly arrested in the United States on sexual assault charges. The fact that Dechert would choose to represent the Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, and allegedly commit human rights abuses on his behalf is shocking.”

* A copy of the claim is attached as a PDF

Karam Sadeq, pictured in happier times

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