Qantas warned about Dubai
A New South Wales solicitor has written to Qantas expressing concern for the human rights of travelers passing through Dubai, the airline’s new hub due to come into service next year as a result of the flying kangaroo’s alliance with the Emirates airline. This follows the arrest in Dubai of a respected doctor.Solicitor Andrew Hamilton has written the following letter to both Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and the airline’s general counsel Andrew Finch.
“I act for a human rights organisation concerned with the abuse of the human rights of citizens of democratic countries by non-democratic countries and related organisations.
I refer to Qantas Airways Limited’s ASX announcement dated 6 September 2012 of a new global partnership with Emirates and the proposed change of Qantas’ hub for European flights from Singapore to Dubai, UAE in April 2013.
I also refer to recent media reports of the arrest and summary imprisonment of Professor Cyril Karabus, a 78 year old internationally respected doctor specialising in paediatrics and medical oncology who headed the oncology and haematology unit at the South African Red Cross Children’s Hospital.
Ten years ago, while working on a short term contract at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi in the UAE, Professor Karabus treated a three-year-old cancer patient who later died of leukaemia. Professor Karabus later returned to his home in South Africa and continued his medical practice there.
At some point after Professor Karabus’s departure from the UAE, without any notice to Professor Karabus, the UAE authorities decided to charge, try and convict Professor Karabus of manslaughter in absentia without his knowledge and without any opportunity for him to present his case. On 18 August 2012 it arrested him while
he was in transit in Dubai airport flying from Canada to South Africa returning from his son’s wedding. See: http://www.iol.co.za/news/crime-courts/global-outrage-at-arrest-of-prof-in-abu- dhabi-1.1389043#.UGq9sbTB-Dp
This case illustrates an important risk to Qantas passenger safety which appears to have been overlooked in Qantas’s decision to hub through Dubai rather than Singapore.
The UAE is a country that does not maintain the basic standards of Rule of Law that citizens of western countries like Australia take for granted.
Many activities which are both legal and common practice in Australia are serious crimes in the UAE. In particular in the UAE, it is illegal:
a) for a man and a woman to have consensual sex outside marriage;
b) to purchase or consume of alcohol without a personal liquor licence (which are not obtainable by tourists)
c) for two men to have consensual sex in any circumstances.
This risk is not merely theoretical. I refer to the following additional cases:
. 1) An Australian woman was gaoled for adultery in the UAE after reporting her rape to the UAE police. See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13680409
. 2) A British man & woman were arrested for having allegedly having sex in a taxi. See: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2145142/Rebecca-Blake-arrested- Dubai-having-sex-Conor-McRedmond-backseat-taxi.html
. 3) Two Australian businessmen gaoled on trumped up fraud charges in Dubai. http://www.detainedindubai.org/Detained_In_Dubai/Sunland.html
I note that Senator Helen Kroger has recently also issued similar warning regarding Qantas’s proposed hub change to Dubai. See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/9554817/Australians-warned-of-false- arrest-in-Dubai-over-Qantas-tie-up.html
Moreover the Prof. Karabus case and the ordeal of the Australian man, Sun McKay, referred to in the above article highlight that this risk extends to transit passengers.
Under Australian law, Qantas has a duty of care to provide a safe environment for its passengers, including while they are in transit to their ultimate destination. This extends to risks to personal safety, life and liberty from legal systems which do not conform to western standards and where passengers may innocently and ignorantly commit serious crimes by behaviour which is legal and commonplace in Australia.
Equally, Qantas has an obligation to not engage in misleading and deceptive conduct by silence as to the risks of transiting via the UAE. Unlike the situation where a
passenger actively chooses to go to a country where western standards of rule of law are not followed, Australian citizens traveling on the Australian national airline to a European destination have a reasonable expectation that they will be subject to western standards of rule of law their entire trip.
Furthermore, any general marketing and branding of the UAE as a modern, sophisticated, western style destination will itself be misleading and deceptive if it fails to draw attention to the very un-western system of laws and a justice system that does not respect basic human rights.
I am hereby putting Qantas on formal notice regarding these issues.
Qantas must not proceed with its announced plans to hub through Dubai without either:
a) eliminating the risk of its passengers transiting through Dubai being arrested or harassed by UAE authorities; or
b) providing prominent, ongoing and explicit warnings to prospective passengers of those risks.
A failure to heed this warning may lead to legal action by actual or potential Qantas customers.
I will also be writing to relevant regulatory authorities highlighting these issues.
Andrew Hamilton Solicitor, NSW
Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation