A videotape showing a member of the United Arab Emirates Royal Family torturing a man is threatening a multibillion-dollar nuclear power deal between the U.S. and the Gulf kingdom.
The 45-minute tape shows a man that the Government of Abu Dhabi has acknowledged is Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan — one of 22 royal brothers of the UAE President and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince — mercilessly and repeatedly beating a man with a cattle prod and a nailed board, burning his genitals and driving his Mercedes over him several times. He is assisted by a uniformed policeman.
Click to watch the video on YouTube (Warning: Graphic)
The fallout from the film — which was smuggled out of the UAE by a former business associate of the sheikh — has reached all the way to the Oval Office, where the civilian nuclear deal, awaiting the signature of President Obama, remains unsigned. A senior US official has said that the Administration is holding off certifying the treaty as a direct result of the film.
The deal was sealed on January 15 during President Bush’s last week in office, but needs to be recertified by the new Administration. Under its terms, the U.S. agrees to provide technology and equipment to help the UAE to develop civilian nuclear power plants. In return, the UAE pledges to abide by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and not to reprocess its spent nuclear fuel.
Jim McGovern, the Democratic co-chairman of the congressional Human Rights Commission, viewed the tape last week and told The Times that it was “one of the most horrific things I have ever seen in my life”. In the tape the sheikh is seen torturing an Afghan grain salesman he claims has cheated him.
McGovern has written to Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, expressing his “outrage, horror and revulsion” about the tape and demanding that all sales and transfers of technology to the UAE, “including nuclear”, be suspended. He calls on Clinton to take a lead role in the investigation. He also told The Times that he would hold congressional hearings into the issue. “If the UAE think this is going to blow over, they are wrong,” he said. The case will be a further test of the Obama Administration’s commitment to human rights.