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UAE says investigating torture video

DUBAI, April 29 (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday it had launched an investigation into a video tape that appears to show a member of the Gulf Arab state’s ruling family torturing an Afghani grains trader.

The video, aired last week by U.S. network ABC, shows the Afghani being abused with an electric cattle prod, beaten with whips and a plank of wood with a nail in it, and driven over by a car in an incident at a desert location in 2004. One of the men, who ABC said is Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, a brother of the UAE crown prince, pours what the network said was salt into the man’s wounds and a man in police uniform takes part.

It is not clear who filmed the scenes but ABC reported the incident arose out of a financial dispute.

“The Government of Abu Dhabi unequivocally condemns the actions depicted on the video,” said an Abu Dhabi Justice Department statement, which gave no details or say anything about the identity of the men in the video.

The Human Rights Office of the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department believed that the matter was resolved between the two parties and no criminal charges were brought by either party, it said. “However, the HRO believes that the events depicted on the video appear to represent a violation of human rights and therefore these events should be fully reviewed in their own right.”

Sheikh Issa has not commented on the accusations.

New York-based Human Rights Watch this week called on the UAE, which is trying to improve its rights image, to investigate and prosecute him and others suspected of taking part.

“The UAE government needs to act now if it is to restore public confidence in the country’s criminal justice system and to show that the rule of law, and not impunity for its violators, is the policy of the country,” it said.

Western-allied UAE, the world’s third-largest oil exporter, is a federation of seven “emirates” each run by a ruling family that grants few political rights to UAE citizens. The Nahayan’s are the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital.

But most of the country’s population of over 4 million are foreigners -- Asians, Europeans and Arabs working in a variety of white and blue collar jobs. Rights groups have criticised the conditions in which labourers work. Many are housed in shanty camps, work long hours during intense summer heat and humidity, and employers often retain their passports.

The United States has also critised the UAE for human trafficking in reference to foreign minors employed as jockeys in popular camel racing and maids and other workers trapped into paying back hidden fees to recruitment agencies at home without access to their passports.

The government says it has taken steps to improve workers’ conditions, end the practice of child camel jockeys and take measures against other forms of human trafficking, including prostutition.

Reporting by Andrew Hammond; editing by Angus MacSwan

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