The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a small but strategically located nation on the Persian Gulf, is holding its national day event tonight.

Nothing remarkable about that, but the celebration’s venue — the U.S. Institute of Peace — has raised a few eyebrows.

The Institute of Peace headquarters, located on the northwest corner of the National Mall. (Courtesy Safdie Architects/COURTESY SAFDIE ARCHITECTS)

The institute, housed in a snappy new building off the Mall, is funded by Congress to prevent and mitigate international conflict and to enhance U.S. security. It promotes the rule of law and consitutions and so on.

The UAE, however, has a few problems, according to the State Department’s human rights report for 2010,

“Arbitrary and incommunicado detention remained a problem, the judiciary lacked independence,” the dry-toned report said. “The government interfered with privacy and restricted civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, press . . . assembly, association, and religion.”

In addition, “legal and societal discrimination against women and noncitizens was pervasive. Trafficking in persons continued. . .” Sounds like a nifty place.

USIP, which rents out space in the building to pay for operational costs, says it rents only to organizations, non-profits and governments and won’t allow fundraisers. Government requests, we understand, are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and, in this case, Washington maintains good relations with the UAE and lots of Hill folks are attending.

Did we mention the UAE has the sixth largest oil reserves in the world?