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World : Asia : United_Arab_Emirates
 
United Arab Emirates

The UAE was formed from the group of tribally organized Arabian Peninsula shaikhdoms along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf and the northwestern coast of the Gulf of Oman. This area was converted to Islam in the 7th century; for centuries it was embroiled in dynastic disputes. It became known as the Pirate Coast as raiders based there harassed foreign shipping, although both European and Arab navies patrolled the area from the 17th century into the 19th century. Early British expeditions to protect the India trade from raiders at Ras al-Khaimah led to campaigns against that headquarters and other harbors along the coast in 1819. The next year, a general peace treaty was signed to which all the principal shaikhs of the coast adhered. Raids continued intermittently until 1835, when the shaikhs agreed not to engage in hostilities at sea. In 1853, they signed a treaty with the United Kingdom, under which the shaikhs (the "Trucial Shaikhdoms") agreed to a "perpetual maritime truce." It was enforced by the United Kingdom, and disputes among shaikhs were referred to the British for settlement.

Primarily in reaction to the ambitions of other European countries, the United Kingdom and the Trucial Shaikhdoms established closer bonds in an 1892 treaty, similar to treaties entered into by the U.K. with other Gulf principalities. The shaikhs agreed not to dispose of any territory except to the United Kingdom and not to enter into relationships with any foreign government other than the United Kingdom without its consent. In return, the British promised to protect the Trucial Coast from all aggression by sea and to help out in case of land attack.

In 1955, the United Kingdom sided with Abu Dhabi in the latter's dispute with Saudi Arabia over the Buraimi Oasis and other territory to the south. A 1974 agreement between Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia would have settled the Abu Dhabi-Saudi border dispute; however, the agreement has yet to be ratified by the UAE Government and is not recognized by the Saudi Government. The border with Oman also remains officially unsettled, but the two governments agreed to delineate the border in May 1999.

In 1968, the U.K. announced its decision, reaffirmed in March 1971, to end the treaty relationships with the seven Trucial Shaikhdoms which had been, together with Bahrain and Qatar, under British protection. The nine attempted to form a union of Arab emirates, but by mid-1971 they were unable to agree on terms of union, even though the termination date of the British treaty relationship was the end of 1971. Bahrain became independent in August and Qatar in September 1971. When the British-Trucial Shaikhdoms treaty expired on December 1, 1971, they became fully independent. On December 2, 1971, six of them entered into a union called the United Arab Emirates. The seventh, Ras al-Khaimah, joined in early 1972.

Today, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven emirates established in 1971. None has any democratically elected institutions or political parties. Traditional rule in the emirates generally has been patriarchal, with political allegiance defined in terms of loyalty to the tribal leaders. Political leaders in the emirates are not elected, but citizens may express their concerns directly to their leaders through traditional mechanisms, such as the open majlis, or council. In accordance with the 1971 Constitution, the seven emirate rulers constitute a Federal Supreme Council, the highest legislative and executive body. The Council selects a President and Vice President from its membership; the President in turn appoints the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The Constitution requires the Council to meet annually, although individual leaders meet frequently in more traditional settings. The Cabinet manages the Federation on a day-to-day basis. A consultative body, the Federal National Council (FNC), consisting of 40 advisors appointed for 2-year terms by the emirate rulers, reviews proposed legislation, discusses the annual budget, and may question federal government ministers in open sessions. Each emirate retains control over its own oil and mineral wealth, some aspects of internal security, and some regulation of internal and external commerce. The Federal Government asserts primacy in matters of foreign and defense policy, some aspects of internal security, and increasingly in matters of law and the supply of some government services. The judiciary generally is independent, but its decisions are subject to review by the political leadership.

 

CIVIL DISORDER

In the past, internal dynastic rivalries within individual amirates were often sources of tension and even bloodshed. In part, this resulted from the absence of clearly established rules of succession. More recently, however, heirs apparent have usually been designated, most often the eldest son of the amir. Intra-UAE rivalries no longer take a violent form, but the continued existence of independent military forces and competition in acquiring arms bring with them a costly proliferation of weapons that complicates training and logistics.

The threat of subversion from resident Iranians and native Shia seems to be less acute in the UAE than in other gulf states in spite of the large Shia population in Dubayy. Dubayy and Sharjah have traditionally maintained good relations with Iran and enjoyed profits from maritime trade, particularly the transshipment of items officially banned in Iran to conserve foreign exchange. The UAE is not a target of Iranian terrorist attacks.

The provisional constitution authorizes federal police and security guard forces, which are subordinate to the Ministry of Interior. The strength of the police force has not been reported but is estimated as relatively large and vigilant in exercising control over political activities. Individual shaykhs had their own police forces before independence and maintained those forces after unification. Both the federal government and the amirate of Dubayy retain independent internal security organizations. The police forces of the other amirates are also involved in antinarcotic and antiterrorist activities.

Criminal cases are tried either by sharia courts administered by each amirate or by civil courts of the federal system that exist in several amirates. Rights of due process are accorded under both systems. Defendants are entitled to legal counsel. No formal public defender system exists, but the judge has responsibility for looking after the interests of persons not represented by counsel. Under the Criminal Procedures Code adopted in 1992, the accused has the right to defense counsel, provided by the government, if necessary, in cases involving possible sentence of death or life imprisonment. There are no jury trials, but trials are open except in cases involving national security or morals offenses. No separate security courts exist, and military courts try only military personnel in a system based on Western military judicial principles. According to Department of State human rights reports, the criminal court system is generally regarded as fair. Despite the lack of a formal bail system, there are instances of release on deposit of money or passport.

Detentions must be reported to the attorney general within forty-eight hours; the attorney general must decide within twenty-four hours whether to charge, release, or allow further limited detention. Most persons receive expeditious trials, although Iraqis and Palestinians had been held incommunicado in detention for one or two months in 1991. Others were being held in jail because they were unwilling or unable to return to their countries of origin.

 

SOCIO-ECONOMIC SYSTEM

The UAE has a free market economy based on oil and gas production, trade, and light manufacturing. The Government owns the majority share of the petroleum production enterprise in the largest emirate, Abu Dhabi. The Emirate of Dubai is likewise an oil producer, as well as a growing financial and commercial center in the Gulf. The remaining five emirates have negligible petroleum or other resources and therefore depend in varying degrees on federal government subsidies, particularly for basic services such as health care, electricity, water, and education. The economy, with an estimated $65.9 billion gross domestic product (GDP) provides citizens with a high per capita income, but it is heavily dependent on foreign skilled and unskilled workers, who constitute at least 80 percent of the 3.1 million general population.

 

INCIDENCE OF CRIME

The crime rate in UAE is low compared to more highly industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for UAE. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. UAE will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 1999 was 2.99 per 100,000 population for UAE, 1.00 for Japan, and 4.55 for USA. For rape, the rate in 1999 was 5.94 for UAE, compared with 1.47 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 1999 was 0.41 for UAE, 3.34 for Japan, and 147.36 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 1999 was 10.11 for UAE, 15.97 for Japan, and 329.63 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 1999 was 5.12 for UAE, 206.01 for Japan, and 755.29 for USA. The rate of larceny for 1999 was 288.78 for UAE, 1267.95 for Japan, and 2502.66 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 1999 was 23 for UAE, compared with 34.01 for Japan and 412.70 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 336.35 for UAE, compared with 1529.75 for Japan and 4184.24 for USA. (Note: data were not reported to INTERPOL by the USA for 1999, but were derived from data reported to the United Nations for 1999)

 

TRENDS IN CRIME

Between 1998 and 1999, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder increased from 0.78 to 2.99 per 100,000 population, an increase of 283.3%. The rate for rape increased from 2.78 to 5.94, an increase of 113.7%. The rate of robbery increased from 0.04 to 0.41, an increase of 925%. The rate for aggravated assault increased from 1.8 to 10.11, an increase of 461.7%. The rate for burglary decreased from 10.07 to 5.12, a decrease of 49.2%. The rate of larceny and motor vehicle theft were not reported in 1998, so the Index trend could not be computed

 

POLICE

Each emirate maintains its own independent police force. While all emirate internal security organs theoretically are branches of one federal organization, in practice they operate with considerable independence. Security forces committed some abuses.

According to Amnesty International, Libyan national Abdullah Abu al-Ghazali died while in security force custody. On September 6, al-Ghazali's wife was informed that her husband had committed suicide while in detention. The reasons for al-Ghazali's arrest and the place of his detention remained unknown.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances; however, some cases of prolonged incommunicado detention could amount to forced disappearance.

The Constitution prohibits torture or degrading treatment, and there were no confirmed reports of torture; however, there were some consistent but unconfirmed reports by foreign prisoners of beatings and confessions coerced from detainees by police during initial detention, which the Government maintained were groundless.

The Constitution prohibits entry into homes without the owner's permission, except in accordance with the law. Only police officers and public prosecutors carrying a warrant are permitted entry into homes. If the authorities enter a home without a warrant, their actions are considered illegal and the evidence obtained thereby is suppressible. Officers' actions in searching premises are subject to review, and officers are subject to disciplinary action if they act irresponsibly. Local custom and practice place a high value on privacy, and entry into private homes without the owner's permission is rare. A female police officer must be present during the search of a private home when male family members are absent. There is no known surveillance of private correspondence, although there have been cases of incoming international mail being censored. Foreigners have received sealed publications, such as magazines, through the international mail in which pictures of the naked human figure have been blackened over with a marking pen.

 

DETENTION

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest, search, detention, or imprisonment; however, the law permits incommunicado detention, and at times, prisoners are incarcerated for as long as several months beyond their release dates. The law prohibits arrest or search without probable cause.

Under the Criminal Procedures Code, the police must report arrests within 48 hours to the Attorney General, who must determine within the next 24 hours whether to charge, release, or order further detention pending an investigation. The Attorney General may order that detainees be held for up to 21 days without charge. After that time, the authorities must obtain a court order for further detention without charge.

The Federal Constitution provides accused persons the right to a speedy trial. This right most often is invoked in civil cases, with civil defendants at times demanding same-day disposition of the cases filed against them. Authorities generally bring criminal defendants to trial in a reasonable time, with the exception of drug-related cases, for which the authorities must inform the Office of the President (also known as the Diwan) of the charges.

Trials may last a substantial period of time, depending on the seriousness of the charges, number of witnesses, and availability of judges. There is no formal system of bail, but the authorities temporarily may release detainees who deposit money or an important document such as a passport. The law permits incommunicado detention, which is mostly used in allegedly sensitive cases in which the police claim that communication between the accused and a third party could jeopardize their investigation. In such cases, no one is notified that the person has been arrested and is being held, which could amount to forced disappearance. Those arrested on regular charges are allowed generally to telephone third parties while in detention.

Defendants in cases involving loss of life, including involuntary manslaughter, may be denied release in accordance with the law. However, bail usually is permitted after a payment of compensation, which is a form of a financial penalty imposed on defendants in criminal cases in which a death has been caused.

According to Amnesty International, on August 31, the authorities detained Abdullah Abu al-Ghazali, a Libyan national, who left Libya in 1989 to avoid arrest because of his religious activities, while he was attending his local mosque. The reason for his arrest and the place of his detention were unknown. On September 6, the authorities reportedly told al-Ghazali's wife that her husband had committed suicide while in detention. On September 10, Amnesty International also reported the detention of four additional Libyan nationals between May and August, whose whereabouts and reason for detention were unknown. In October a government official reported that the four additional Libyan nationals--one arrested in May, two arrested in July and one arrested in August--had been expelled from the country in September because the Government was unable to find evidence linking the four detainees to the al-Qaida terrorist organization.

Review of criminal cases by the Office of the President in Abu Dhabi and bureaucratic delays in processing prisoners or releasing them, at times result in detainees serving additional, unnecessary time in the central prisons. Some bureaucratic delays have kept prisoners incarcerated for as long as several months beyond their court-mandated release dates.

In June on the occasion of the birth anniversary of the Prophet Mohammed, President Zayid pardoned approximately 6,000 prisoners (of which about 2,000 were women), including about 700 citizens and 5,300 expatriates, from all 7 emirates. The prisoners either were awaiting trial or serving sentence terms from 3 to 5 years. Most of the prisoners pardoned were foreign nationals convicted of violating immigration laws. The decree also included prisoners convicted of embezzlement, drug-related offenses, brawling, drinking, fighting, engaging in premarital sex, and swindling, but it did not include prisoners convicted of murder, rape and kidnaping. Most of the pardoned foreign nationals were to be deported, while those jailed for financial crimes were to be given a grace period to settle amounts still owed. Press reports indicated that security sources in Abu Dhabi stated that the presidential pardon covered more than 65 percent of prisoners in all jails, noting that the total number of prisoners before the pardon stood at nearly 11,000.

The Constitution prohibits forced exile, and it is not practiced.

 

COURTS

UAE has a federal court system introduced in 1971. All emirates except Dubayy (Dubai) and Ra's al Khaymah have joined the federal system; all emirates have secular and Islamic law for civil, criminal, and high courts.

Article 94 of the provisional constitution guarantees the independence of the judicial branch under the Supreme Court of the Union. This body consists of a president and up to five judges appointed by the UAE president, following approval by the SCU. The Supreme Court is vested with the power of judicial review and original jurisdiction over federal-amirate and interamirate disputes. It also is empowered to try cases of official misconduct involving cabinet and other senior federal officials.

The provisional constitution also provides for the establishment of union courts of first instance to adjudicate civil, commercial, criminal, and administrative cases. Judgments of these courts can be appealed to the Supreme Court. Local courts in each of the seven amirates have jurisdiction over matters that the provisional constitution does not specifically reserve to the union courts.

The provisional constitution designates the sharia (Islamic law) as the basis of all legislation. Three of the four legal schools of Sunni Islam have adherents in the UAE. Most citizens follow the Maliki legal school, but a minority follow the Hanbali and Shafii schools. The Twelver Imam legal school of Shia Muslims also has adherents in the federation.

Shari'a (Islamic law) courts (except in Dubai) frequently impose flogging on Muslims found guilty of adultery, prostitution, and drug or alcohol abuse. In practice flogging is administered in accordance with Shari'a in order to prevent major or permanent injuries. The individual administering the lashing swings the whip using the forearm only. According to press accounts, punishments for adultery and prostitution have ranged from 39 to 200 lashes. Individuals convicted of drunkenness have been sentenced to 80 lashes. The Federal Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that convictions in the Shari'a courts do not necessarily require the imposition of Shari'a penalties on non-Muslims, but such sentences have been carried out in a few cases.

In June a Shari'a court sentenced the Indian imam of a mosque in the Emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah to a month in prison, 90 lashes, and then deportation because he spent time alone with a woman. The imam originally was charged with adultery because he was found at the home of one of his friends alone with a foreign national housemaid; however, the charges were changed to "cohabitation" because the prosecution could not prove the crime of adultery. The imam had not confessed and there were no witnesses. The housemaid was sentenced to 150 lashes in 3 sessions and deportation, and the owner of the house was sentenced to 90 lashes and deportation.

The Constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary; however, its decisions are subject to review by the political leadership. Most judges are noncitizen Arabs, whose mandate is subject to periodic renewal by the Government; however, the number of citizens serving as public prosecutors and judges, particularly at the federal level, continued to grow.

There is a dual system of Shari'a and civil courts. The civil courts generally are part of the federal system and are answerable to the Federal Supreme Court, located in Abu Dhabi, which has the power of judicial review as well as original jurisdiction in disputes between emirates or between the Federal Government and individual emirates. The Emirates of Dubai and Ras Al-Khaimah have local courts, which have jurisdiction over matters within their territory that the Constitution or federal legislation does not specifically reserve to the federal system.

Each emirate administers Shari'a courts. In some emirates, in addition to matters of personal status, these courts consider all types of civil and commercial cases as well as serious criminal cases. They act in accordance with traditional Islamic law and practice, but also must answer to the Federal Supreme Court. Dubai has a special Shi'a council to act on matters pertaining to Shi'a family law.

Legal counsel may represent defendants in both court systems. Under the Criminal Procedures Code, the accused has a right to counsel in all cases involving a capital crime or possible life imprisonment. Only the Emirate of Dubai has a public defender's office. If the defendant is indigent, the Government will provide counsel; however, in Dubai the Government provides indigents with counsel only in felony cases. The Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that a defendant in an appeals case has a "fundamental right" to select his attorney and that this right supersedes a judge's power to appoint an attorney for the defendant.

The right to legal counsel is interpreted to provide that the accused is entitled to an attorney only after the police have completed their investigation. Thus, the police may question accused persons--sometimes for days or weeks, as in narcotics cases--without the benefit of legal counsel.

Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. There are no jury trials. The number of judges sitting for a case depends on the type of crime alleged; three judges normally sit for criminal cases. All trials are public, except for national security cases and those deemed by the judge likely to harm public morality.

Each court system has an appeals process. Death sentences may be appealed to the ruler of the emirate in which the offense was committed or to the President of the Federation. Non-Muslims who are tried for criminal offenses in Shari'a courts may receive civil penalties at the discretion of the judge. Shari'a penalties imposed on non-Muslims may be overturned or modified by a higher court.

In cases in which a defendant is acquitted of a crime, the prosecutor may appeal the acquittal to a higher court. If the case is appealed, the higher court reviews the case and may receive more and new evidence. If convinced of the defendant's guilt, the appellate court may set aside the lower court's verdict of not guilty and enter a verdict of guilty with an order that the defendant pay compensation. The appellate standard for overturning an acquittal is reportedly "without the slightest doubt of guilt."

In a widely reported case in January, a Shari'a court acquitted a Filipina housemaid on the grounds of self-defense for killing her citizen employer when he tried to rape her on the day she arrived in the country in Ras Al-Khaimah. Although she had been acquitted, the Filipina, who had been detained for 2 years since her arrest, was held without bail because of the prosecutor's right to appeal the case. The deceased citizen's family persuaded the prosecutor to appeal the acquittal and in May, the Shari'a court's acquittal was overturned. The appellate court sentenced her to 2 years' imprisonment and ordered her to pay $43,000 (150,000 dirhams) compensation. Since she had already served over 2 years since her arrest, the appellate court ordered the defendant to be released and deported once the compensation was paid. The Filipino Embassy appealed to the Filipino community that collected funds to pay the compensation, and the defendant was released and deported in August.

In cases in which a defendant is sentenced to death, the sentence may be reduced to a term of imprisonment if the victim or victim's family provides a statement to the court forgiving the defendant. This waiver by the victim or victim's family is sometimes made in exchange for a financial payment from the defendant.

In April the press reported on a case in which a man convicted of kidnaping, beating, and repeatedly raping an 11-year-old girl was released from prison after serving only 2 years. The victim's family waived the death penalty in exchange for $69,400 (250,000 dirhams) compensation, and the defendant's sentence was commuted to 10 years. After 2 years, the defendant had only paid $41,700 (150,000 dirhams) compensation to the victim's family and convinced the victim's family to accept this lower amount as full compensation. At that time, the defendant was released from prison over the victim's family's protest because he had served only 2 years of his 10-year term.

The Presidential Diwan, following traditional prerogatives, maintains the practice of reviewing many types of criminal and civil offenses (such as alcohol use, drug-related cases, firearm use, cases involving personal injury, and cases affecting tribal harmony) before cases are referred to the prosecutor's office. However, this practice is not as prevalent as in past years, and such cases usually are referred directly to the prosecutor's office. The Diwan also reviews sentences passed by judges and reserves the right to return cases to the courts on appeal. The Diwan's involvement, which typically occurs when the case involves parties from two different emirates or a citizen and a noncitizen, leads to long delays prior to and following the judicial process, causing some prisoners to remain in prison after they have completed their sentence. There are reports of intervention by other emirates' rulers in specific cases of personal interest.

The military has its own court system based on Western military judicial practice. Military tribunals try only military personnel. There is no separate national security court system. Convicted criminals may request a pardon at any time, except if convicted of serious offenses such as murder.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

 

CORRECTIONS

Prison conditions reportedly are mixed, depending on the location. Dubai prison conditions generally meet international standards. Abu Dhabi conditions typically are adequate, but Spartan, and rural prison conditions at times are inadequate. In central prisons that hold long-term inmates, prisoners are provided with food, medical care, and adequate sanitation facilities, but sleep on slabs built into cell walls or on the floor. Each prisoner is provided with four blankets. Only some blocks of the central prisons are air-conditioned during the intense heat and humidity of the summer. The Government has phased in air-conditioning in 80 per cent of the prisons; completion is scheduled for summer 2003. Prisoners with medical conditions are placed in air-conditioned rooms during the summer months. Prisoners not under investigation and not involved in drug cases may receive visitors up to three times each week and may also make occasional local telephone calls. Most prisoners in Dubai are allowed family visits and a number of telephone calls. Men and women are housed separately. Pretrial detainees are kept separately from convicted criminals until the trial begins. They then are placed in the same wing as convicted individuals. Juveniles are housed separately from adults.

The Government does not permit independent monitoring of prison conditions.

 

WOMEN

Family law for Muslims is governed by Shari'a and the local Shari'a courts. As such, Muslim women are forbidden to marry non-Muslims. Such a marriage may result in both partners being arrested and tried. However, Muslim men, are free to marry women "of the book," that is, Muslim, Christian or Jewish women. Men and women may be arrested and imprisoned for committing adultery.

In September the Emirate of Sharjah promulgated a "decency" law, or Code of Conduct, setting standards for dress and behavior in public. The Code of Conduct includes a dress code for men and women, a dress code for attending mosques, and a dress code for beaches. The Code of Conduct also lists prohibited behavior, including prohibitions against wearing swimwear in streets or other public places; against men and women being alone in public places or at suspicious times and in suspicious circumstances if they are not connected by a "legally acceptable" relationship; against publicly bothering others or disturbing the peace with acts of vulgarity or loud noise; and against publicly engaging in acts of harassment that violate public decency.

There are some reported cases of spousal abuse. The laws protect women from verbal abuse or harassment from men, and violators are subject to criminal action. Police units are stationed at major public hospitals so that victims of abuse may file complaints, which would fall under the jurisdiction of the Shari'a courts; in addition, attending physicians may call upon the police to interview suspected victims of abuse. However, women sometimes are reluctant to file formal charges for social, cultural, and economic reasons. When abuse is reported to the local police, authorities may take action to protect the complainant. There continue to be credible reports of physical and sexual abuse of female domestic servants by some local and foreign employers.

Trafficking in women for the purposes of sexual exploitation is a problem.

Prostitution is illegal; however, it has become an increasingly open phenomenon in recent years, particularly in Dubai. No accurate statistics are available. However, substantial numbers of women arrive from the states of the former Soviet Union, Africa, East Asia, Eastern Europe, and other states of the Middle East for temporary stays during which they engage in prostitution and possibly other activities connected with organized crime. There is credible evidence to suggest that the majority of these women seek to enter the country in order to make substantially more money than they could earn in their home countries by engaging in prostitution.

Women play a subordinate role in the family-centered society because of traditional attitudes regarding women's duties and early marriages. There are no legal prohibitions against women owning property or businesses; however, there are restrictions on ownership by women. For example, women must inherit property or businesses from a father or husband, or, if unmarried, receive a grant of land from the ruling family in the emirate in which they reside. In the case of women who are married, the land must be granted to the husbands. Cultural attitudes also deter ownership by women. A woman's property is not otherwise commingled with that of her husband, and she retains control of her separate property during the marriage. Custom dictates that a husband may bar his wife, minor male and female children, and adult unmarried daughters from leaving the country, and a married woman may not accept employment without her husband's written consent, although such permission usually is granted.

Shari'a is applied in personal status cases. The law permits men to have more than one wife, but not more than four, at a time, and the practice is widespread. Divorce is permissible. A woman may be granted a divorce if she can prove that her husband has deliberately stayed away from her for 3 months and has not paid for her upkeep, or for the maintenance of her children. Divorced women are granted custody of female children until they reach the age of maturity; they are granted temporary custody of male children until they reach the age of 12. If the mother is deemed unfit, custody reverts to the next able female relative on the mother's side. A woman who remarries may forfeit her right to the custody of children from a previous marriage.

The law prohibits cohabitation by unmarried couples. The Government may imprison and deport noncitizen women if they bear children out of wedlock. In the event that a court sentences a woman to prison for such an offense, local authorities, at the request of the prisoner, may hold the newborn children in a special area within the confines of the prison or place them with a relative. In rare cases, children are held in other facilities until the mother's release. In Dubai Emirate, unmarried pregnant women must marry the father of the child; both parties are subject to arrest for fornication.

 

CHILDREN

The Government is committed to the welfare of child citizens. Children who are citizens receive free public education through the university level, receive free health care, and are assured housing. Citizens also are eligible to receive aid from the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare for sons and daughters who are under the age of 18, unmarried, or have disabilities.

The Government early in the year banned noncitizen resident children from attending public school, beginning with the 2001-02 academic year. Consequently, parents of such children must bear the considerable expense of a private education. In September the Ministry of Education and Youth excluded from the public school ban those noncitizen children living in rural areas that lack private schools. The Government also eliminated free health care for noncitizen resident children and adults.

Citizen children are required to attend school--segregated by gender--through the sixth grade, the last grade of primary education, when children may be as young as 10 or 11 years old. However, compulsory education is not enforced, and some children, both girls and boys, do not attend school.

The use of young foreign national boys as camel jockeys, who are subjected to harsh conditions, is a continuing problem. There were also reports of girls being trafficked to the country for the purpose of prostitution.

 

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS

The law does not prohibit specifically trafficking in persons, although child smuggling, prostitution, and pornography are crimes. And trafficking in women and children is a problem.

Trafficking in persons involves young boys used as camel jockeys, and women.

There reportedly are as many as hundreds of underage camel jockeys working in the country who are subjected to harsh conditions. Some press reports claim that 2,000 boys have been trafficked to the country over the last 2 years, although this figure appears to be inflated. The largest concentration of camel jockeys is located in Abu Dhabi Emirate, which is home to the country's largest camel racing tracks and associated stables and training facilities.

Credible sources report that almost all camel jockeys are children under the minimum employment age. Reports indicate that small, organized gangs provide the stables with the young boys, who generally are between the ages of 4 and 10. The gangs obtain the youths, usually from poor families in Pakistan and Bangladesh, by kidnaping or, in some instances, buying them from their parents or taking them under false pretenses, and then smuggling them into the country. The boys are often underfed and subjected to crash diets to make them as light as possible. Boys of 4 to 5 years of age are reported to be preferred, although older boys aged 6 to 8 also are used, depending on their size. Some children have reported being beaten while working as jockeys, and others have been injured seriously during races.

Labor regulations prohibit the employment of persons under the age of 15, and a 1993 Presidential Decree prohibits camel jockeys under the age of 15 or who weigh less than 99 pounds.

However, these laws are not enforced. Rather, the Government defers control of camel racing events and the enforcement of rules concerning camel racing, including labor laws prohibiting child labor, to the Camel Racing Association, which is under the chairmanship of Shaikh Hamdan bin Zayid Al-Nahyan, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. Many persons who own the camels and employ the children come from powerful local families who have ties to the Government and are in effect above the law. The camel owners are not prosecuted for violations of the labor laws; consequently, the demand for child jockeys continues unrestricted.

There are also other reported types of cases of trafficking in children. According to newspaper reports, in June police rescued an 11-year-old Pakistani boy from an unknown employment situation in Beda-Zayid, a town in the Abu Dhabi Emirate. The boy reportedly was kidnaped from his family by a Pakistani woman in 1998 and brought to Abu Dhabi through Iran under a false name. There is no information that any action was taken by the authorities against the boy's employer. According to a newspaper report published in May, a 6-year old Pakistani boy who had been trafficked to the country along with his family died of severe head injuries allegedly caused by "a fall"--an excuse sometimes given to hospital personnel when injuries are sustained from camel jockeying. The boy's father claimed that an agent who promised them an attractive salary had brought the family to the country. Upon arrival, the family allegedly was informed that a childless family would adopt their children for the sum of $600 (1,000 dirhams). The family reportedly lived in a makeshift camp in the city of Al-Ain; the couple's daughters and baby born in the country were not given residence visas to remain in the country. The family reportedly approached the Pakistani Embassy, which facilitated their repatriation.

There are credible reports of trafficking in women and girls to the country. There are reports of women and girls who are brought to the country under the false pretense of working in the service sector or as domestic servants, but then are forced into prostitution. It is unclear whether this activity is conducted with the full complicity of the women's citizen sponsors, or whether the women's generally noncitizen agents are exploiting the sponsorship system to engage in illicit activity.

In January Abu Dhabi police rescued a Pakistani woman who had been trafficked to the country with the promise of employment as a domestic servant but who was instead tortured, raped, and forced into prostitution. In April a young Bangladeshi woman who was trafficked to the country was admitted to the Iranian hospital in Dubai after having been raped repeatedly and tortured. The woman allegedly was brought to the country on the promise that she would be employed as a housemaid. A 17-year old Bangladeshi girl sought refuge at the Bangladeshi Embassy after being forced into prostitution by the agent who brought her to the country.

Unconfirmed international press reports have indicated that the country is the destination for trafficking of young women and girls from Iran. Two separate press reports in October 2000 and in February described the break-up by Iranian authorities of a smuggling ring whose members allegedly kidnaped runaway girls and sold them to wealthy men in the Gulf region. One of the press reports cited the sale of the ringleader's own daughter to a citizen for $11,000.

Prostitution has become an increasingly open phenomenon in recent years, particularly in Dubai. No accurate statistics are available. However, substantial numbers of women and girls appear to be arriving from the countries of the former Soviet Union (including, but not limited to, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia), Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Africa, East Asia, and Eastern Europe for temporary stays, during which they engage in prostitution and possibly other activities connected with organized crime. Unconfirmed international press reports suggest there are several thousand prostitutes working in Dubai and the northern emirates, with a somewhat lower number working in Abu Dhabi. There are reports that some hotels bring young women, particularly from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, to fill low-paying jobs as dancers. Signing 6-month contracts promising work in the hospitality industry, the women often are required to dance in the local bars of three- and four-star hotels. With little income, encouragement from management, and constant pressure from male customers, many of these women begin supplementing their salaries through prostitution. Those who wish to quit and return home often find it hard to do so because hotel management maintains control of their passports.

The Government does not address specifically the problem of trafficking in women; victims are arrested and prosecuted for violations of prostitution and other laws. While prostitution is acknowledged widely to exist, the Government does not address the issue publicly because of societal sensitivities. In an effort to combat prostitution, the Dubai police conduct special patrols in areas frequented by prostitutes, and the immigration and police forces have formed special units that conduct raids and sting operations in areas known to be frequented by prostitutes. In addition the authorities restrict the number of visas issued to single women between the ages of 30 and 40. However, press reports indicated that airlines and tourism companies continue to obtain visit visas for single women between the ages of 30 and 40.

The punishment for prostitution is lashing, followed by imprisonment. However, there are reports that those arrested for prostitution generally are detained only for a brief period before being deported and blacklisted from reentering the country. When they are made aware of a smuggled child, the police and immigration authorities attempt to repatriate the child and to prosecute or detain, and then deport, those involved in the trafficking ring.

In May three Central European women claimed that they were recruited to work in the country in the hotel business. However, upon their arrival, their local sponsor seized their passports and locked them in a villa with iron grates on the windows. The women claimed that then they were forced to work as prostitutes. The three women eventually escaped and obtained protection at their country's embassy in Abu Dhabi. They remained under their embassy's protection for approximately a month, after which their passports were returned, and they were permitted to depart the country.

The Kazakhstan Government reported in June that it broke up a trafficking ring that specialized in sending women to the country for prostitution. Five members of the ring were arrested while attempting to board a woman and a 15-year-old girl on a flight to Dubai.

The police and immigration authorities, working together with foreign governments and NGO's have provided shelter for and assistance with the repatriation of underage camel jockeys. Victims of trafficking may seek shelter in their embassies; the Government does not provide assistance to victims. Women arrested as prostitutes are detained, deported, and blacklisted from reentering the country.

 

DRUG TRAFFICKING

Although not a narcotics-producing nation, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) remains a transshipment point for illegal narcotics. This is due to its geographical location near the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, as well as its role as a "free-trade" zone and regional hub for international air travel. While no comprehensive statistics are available, unofficial sources indicate that illicit drug trafficking and usage are on the rise. The federal Ministry of Interior's Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is the lead agency for combating drug trafficking and is tasked with coordinating drug enforcement efforts for the seven emirates which comprise the UAE. The UAE government is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention and is committed to the fight against international narcotics trafficking and narcotics abuse.

As a major financial center and regional hub for commercial shipping and transportation, the UAE serves as an active, and increasingly important, transshipment route for illegal narcotics from Southeast and Southwest Asia to Europe and the United States. Illicit narcotics originating in Southeast Asia are known to have reached the United States via the UAE.

The majority of the illegal trafficking occurs in the northern emirates. This is presumed to be due to the sustained commercial and financial growth of the Emirate of Dubai, the location of the country's "free zones" in the north, and the emergence of Dubai and Sharjah as regional centers in the transportation of passengers and cargo respectively. Unconfirmed statistics cited for the Emirate of Dubai indicate that in 1996, authorities pursued 271 cases, which resulted in the seizure of over 5 tons of narcotics. In 1997, 1,234 cases were uncovered and almost 8 tons of narcotics were seized. As of June 1998, a total of 4 tons of narcotics were seized in only 74 cases. Available information regarding the Abu Dhabi emirate indicates that there were approximately 55 cases in 1997. The majority of these cases were for possession and use of narcotics, not drug trafficking.

The absence of money laundering legislation, which has been drafted but not approved, leaves the UAE in an increasingly vulnerable position as a target for money laundering by narcotics traffickers and other criminal organizations.

The UAE has been used as a transit point to disguise the final destination of chemicals intended for illicit drug manufacture elsewhere, primarily heroin manufacture in Afghanistan. The chemicals have generally originated in Europe, India or China. The UAE government is aware of the danger. It is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention and it cooperates with other governments and the International Narcotics Control Board in identifying and stopping suspicious shipments.

There is no evidence of drug cultivation or production in the UAE.

Although no official country-wide statistics are available in the public domain, unofficial sources indicate that narcotics smuggling from South Asia to Europe and the United States via the UAE is increasing. There is no available information that narcotics transiting the UAE reach the U.S. in amounts that significantly affect the U.S. Hashish, heroin, and opium originate in Southeast and Southwest Asia and are smuggled in cargo containers, small vessels, and trucks coming overland from Oman. As legitimate commercial trade via the UAE intensifies, the likelihood of additional illegal smuggling increases.

The focus of the UAE government's domestic program is demand reduction. Public awareness campaigns directed at young people, and the establishment of rehabilitation centers, continue to be the thrust of the program. UAE officials believe that Muslim religious mores and severe prison sentences for those convicted of drug offenses serve as a deterrent to narcotics abuse.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Internet research assisted by Kalemah August

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