Legal Questions And Answers

Does defamation amount to a criminal case? If I post something on my personal Social Networking site, can it still be used against me in a defamation case?

The number of defamation cases filed in the UAE has increased substantially over the past 12 months, and one of the correlating factors is the increase in use of social media tools. The use of social media should not be treated differently to publication in newspapers, books or magazines when it comes to defamation.  Arguably, the risk of damage is higher when social media is used, given the instantaneous and largely uncontrollable dissemination of opinions posted to social media sites.  This article examines defamation in the UAE, and outlines steps companies and individuals should follow to avoid facing criminal conviction for seemingly following the worldwide trend of contributing to social media sites.

Social media is a phenomenon sweeping the globe.  Gone are the days where a letter to the newspaper’s editor was the only way in which someone could publicly comment about current affairs – people now can instantaneously voice their opinions on twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and other public internet social media web sites.  As the number of users of social media grows, we have seen an increase in the multitude of legal issues that arise from the public nature of the comments, including breach of privacy claims, allegations of defamation, cyber liability issues, termination of employees for misconduct, data breaches and regulatory compliance issues.

In the UAE, any commentary posted (anonymously or not) may lead to criminal charges for defamation.  We have seen first-hand the number of defamation cases in the UAE increasing substantially within the region.   Some recent cases involved an individual posting to twitter unfounded accusations of corruption and injustice against a senior police officer, and another well publicised case resulted in four individuals being sentenced to imprisonment after exchanging insults on Twitter. The most recent case of an Australian woman deported for posting a seemingly harmless picture along with insulting and derogatory words, also sparked a lot of hue & cry in the media.

What you need to know about defamation

  1. Defamation in the UAE is a criminal offence.
  2. Defamation includes both oral and published statements, and will include any statement posted to a website which causes harm to the person the statement is about.
  3. Any allegation of defamation must be filed with the police within three months from the date of publication of the “defamatory statement”.
  4. Once the criminal complaint is filed, the Police investigate the complaint and, if they conclude there is evidence of defamation, refer it to the Public Prosecutor for charging.
  5. There is no civil action for defamation; however the complainant can file a civil claim for damages pursuant to the general principles of tort (“wrongful acts causing harm“) and may be entitled to financial compensation, provided the elements can be proved.
  6. It is also a crime, punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment, to insult or abuse any  religion, using any means (which is wide enough to include the posting of religious  comments to twitter and facebook).
  7. The UAE courts will not grant injunctive relief preventing future publications of the “defamatory statement”.
  8. If found guilty, individuals can face up to two years in prison or a fine of up to AED 20,000.

Defamation explained

There are two main defamation offences set out in Articles 372 and 373 of UAE Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 (as amended) (“the Penal Code“).  Article 372 deals with a publicity which exposes the victim to public hatred or contempt and Article 373 deals with a false accusation that dishonours or discredits the victim in the public eye.

To succeed with a criminal complaint for defamation, the complainant must prove:

  1. a false or defamatory statement was made;
  2. which was issued to a third party (either in writing or verbally); and
  3. that statement caused “harm” to the complainant.

The absence of any of these elements will undermine the merits of any such complaint.

The highest court of appeal in Dubai, the Court of Cassation, has held that a defamatory statement is likely to make the defamed person subject to “punishment” or “humiliation” amongst their community.  In a more recent decision, the Court held that mere criticism may be regarded as defamatory if it exceeds the “normal limits” or affects the honour of a defamed individual.

If the statement is made via “printed matter” (which would include social media) or against a public officer this will be considered an aggravating circumstance, which may increase the severity of the punishment.  Statements which insult a person’s honour or family will also be subject to penalties at the more severe end of the scale.

Risk for employers

Employers need to ensure that they explain the risks to their employees when they engage in social media. In the event an employee has been charged with a criminal complaint, the employer will no doubt be involved in the process, as they sponsor the individual to live and work in the UAE.

Whilst an investigation is on-going the police may require access to office computers.  Of course, where the opinions of the employee are given on behalf (or seen to represent) those of the Employer then the criminal complaint could be made against the employee’s manager as well as the employee posting the defamatory remarks.

How to handle social media in the UAE?

Defamation in the UAE is prosecuted by reference to the Penal Code.  Rightly or wrongly, the legislation is clear, and the penalties can be severe.  Individuals should ensure they understand the perils associated with posting any comments which may be construed as defamatory.  Companies should amend and update any internet usage policies to specifically refer to social media, and provide training and guidance to their employees on what is appropriate and responsible commentary for the UAE.

Should you have any questions in connection with this article or the legal issues it covers, please contact us for clarifications.

I was asked to provide signed blank cheques to my bank as security against a loan that I took. In the event that I lose my job or am unable to repay the loan or default in any installments, what legal actions can the Creditor take against me?

United Arab Emirates has imposed strict laws on credit, loans, bounced cheques and the like, that has greatly impacted debtors especially those burdened with financial difficulties due to termination, redundancy, dismissals from job, bankruptcy owing to lack of business or profit etc.

In acquiring loans especially from institutions like Banks or other financial institutions, the debtor is duty-bound to furnish undated cheques to the creditor and the latter is entitled for encashment of such according to agreement and policies set forth during the transaction.

Although these cheques are provided as security, the Criminal Court does not differentiate between a normal cheque or a security cheque as long as the cheque satisfies the requirements

Defaulting in payment or having insufficient funds in the bank to honour a cheque that has been provided will implicate the debtor to 2 kinds of cases that he can find himself in – either as a criminal offense and/or as a civil offense.

Criminal Offense

The debtor becomes liable to a criminal offense known as Cheque Fraud as indicated in the UAE Commercial Transactions Law and the UAE Federal Law of 1987 – Penal Code, which states that –

Detention or a fine shall be imposed upon anyone who, in bad faith, gives a draft (cheque) without a sufficient and drawable balance or who, after giving a cheque, withdraws all or part of the balance, making the balance insufficient for settlement of the cheque

The debtor would then be arrested for the crime and be given the opportunity to either settle his loan in full or arrive at a settlement agreement with the creditor. If  he can neither finish off his loan nor reach a settlement with the creditor, then the Court will pass a judgment against the perpetrator to be imprisoned for a specified time and be imposed of fines.

 Civil Liability

Defaulting in loan payment may also come under the civil law in which the debtor will be bound to repay all his dues as indicated in the Federal law no. 5 of 1985 – Civil Law, Article 246 which states

“A contract must be performed in accordance with its contents, and in a manner consistent with the requirements of good faith”

This implies that the debtor has committed breach of contract upon his inability to fulfill financial obligations to the creditor.

If a civil suit is successfully claimed against the debtor, the Court will direct him to pay off the Loan with Interest calculated per annum since the date of default. For materializing this amount, the creditor will have access to the End of Service Benefits, any material assets of the debtor such as car, house, etc

Travel Ban

Since absconding is also a rampant issue that has been a common resort of debtors upon breach of agreements on fulfillment of financial obligations, a creditor has an option to obtain a Travel Ban though Court. This will have the perpetrator blacklisted in the immigration and they shall be barred from either exiting or caught while entering the country.

To find solutions to your loan issues or to help you with Debt Recovery, please get in touch with us and we shall guide you accordingly.

Is drinking or consumption of alcohol permissible in the UAE? What is the punishment for drinking and driving?

Drinking in licensed establishments is permitted under UAE law for non-Muslims. However, being an Islamic country, drinking in excess or irresponsibly is frowned upon. Muslims are not allowed to drink alcohol. Non-Muslims can go to Dubai’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and apply for permission to drink, but this permission is limited – only quantity for personal use is allowed and it must not be consumed in a public place.

Application forms for alcohol licences are available in UAE liqour stores. You will need a minimum monthly salary of Dhs 2,000 (may vary) and your purchases will be limited depending on the money you earn, so that you cannot buy in bulk. Having a licence means you can consume alcohol in your own home.

It’s vital to remember that, despite the fact that no-one will be hunting down unlicensed drinkers in hotels, restaurants and bars, it is still illegal to drink at those establishments without a licence. Step outside the venue, or get into a taxi that is subsequently involved in an incident that alerts the police, and more often than not the passenger will be checked for alcohol consumption. Expect a short stay in jail and fines of up to Dhs 20,000 or more if you are caught.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a very serious crime. Sometimes drink-driving will land you immediately in jail, followed by deportation if you’re an expat. It can also cost you Dhs 20,000 in fines. A drink-driving offence will also earn you 24 ‘black points’ on your licence, which means an immediate three-month suspension of your UAE driving licence. If drink-driving leads to a fatality, your insurance will not cover you, blood money will likely be around Dhs 200,000 and paid to the family of the deceased. You will not leave jail until the amount is paid to the bereaved family in full.

A final thing worth noting is that, while alcohol can be bought in Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah is a ‘dry’ emirate, meaning that it is illegal to make the trip through it from Ras Al Khaimah to Dubai with alcohol. Being caught with more than your permitted quota of alcohol will also lead you to be sentenced for bootlegging, so it is better to be cautious.

For more understanding on this issue, please get in touch with us at the contact details provided.

My car was hit by another car which sped away without stopping to call the police. How can I convince the police to give me a green paper to show to my insurance for repair work?

When your car is hit by another car but speeds away instead of stopping to call the police, or when he stops and gives you his number saying that he will compensate you later but then never answers his phone again, then you find yourself in a case of “hit-and-run”.

Most hit and run cases occur when the driver is under the influence of alcohol or does not have a proper licence or proper papers to show for the car he / she is driving. Sometimes, people also panic and run away.

So how do you deal with a ‘hit and run’ case?

Reporting the matter

  • The key is to report the matter to the police immediately. The victim must be sharp enough to note the colour, make, number plate etc., try to see whether it was a male or female driving as this helps police trace the driver. With everyone having a smart phone nowadays, it won’t take too long to shoot a pic of the car before it drives away from the accident scene. Only thing needed is for you to have the presence of mind to do so.
  • If your car has been hit, just wait where the accident happens and call the police.
  • Once you get the police report, compensation is usually negotiated with an attempt to settle it out of court upon giving three estimates by a garage or the insurance pays for the victim’s vehicle only after a judgment is issued in the criminal case. Then the insurance chases the accused for the compensation amount by filing a civil claim.

Hit and run cases could be of different types and could involve deaths, bodily injuries, damage to vehicles or property. It becomes a court case depending on the severity of the accident and is dealt with accordingly.

Most garages do not accept cars for repairs without the white paper so the key is to obtain the white paper from the Police. Garages and mechanics may be willing to take on low-risk jobs after going through the RTA system and ensuring that the car has a “clean” report, but this depends.

Penalties for violators

Hit and run cases are governed by Traffic Law No 21 of 1995, but if a person is involved in traffic crime or accident and fails to report any information about it, including any injuries, then the punishment will be as per Article 49 of the Traffic Law which imposes imprisonment for a maximum of one year, a fine not exceeding Dh20,000, or both.

If there is no injury, fine No. 35 of the schedule of fines will be applied. According to Article 59 of the same law, a policeman has the right to arrest any driver of a vehicle if he is caught in the act of attempting to escape from the scene of an accident in which he has caused injury to the life of any person or in the event of receiving an order from policemen to stop his vehicle. This will be dealt with under the penal procedures law.

Regular and hit and run accidents: what’s the difference?

Both parties are present in a regular accident, but only one party (usually the victim) is present in a hit and run case.

In a regular accident, the Police issue green paper to innocent party and red paper to guilty party, but only a white paper is given in a hit and run case.

White paper is issued after due investigation in severe hit and run cases as witness accounts, road camera footage, etc. are considered

Green or white papers are to be submitted to insurance companies for claims. They usually ask for quotations from three garages and honour the lowest.

It becomes a court case depending on severity of damage and the claims will hinge on the verdict and the victim may be asked to sign an undertaking to award compensation due to him to the company if the ruling is in his favour. If it’s against him, his policy may be reviewed.

To discuss in detail or for any further enquiries, please contact us and get your appointment with our lawyer.

What is a labour ban? How can I avoid it? What are the situations under which a labour ban is not imposed?

An expat employee who

  1. has a limited contract but terminates his contract before the completion of its term , or
  2. has an unlimited contract but terminates his contract before spending atleast 1 year of service,

will be automatically imposed an employment labour ban for a period of six months. During this period the employee may not be issued a labour permit in the UAE. This ban is imposed irrespective of the fact that the employee is on father’s or husband’s or any other relatives sponsorship.

* Note that this ban is different from the immigration ban and does not hinder the person from entering UAE on a visit or tourist visa.

A labour ban may be lifted if a prospective employer offers a salary corresponding to the educational qualifications of the individual, which is

  • 12,000 if holder of a Graduate degree or above,
  • 7,000 if a Diploma holder &
  • 5,000 if High School Certificate holder.

It may be noted that certain professionals are exempted from imposition of a labour ban during change of employment from one employer to the other. This is in accordance with Article 2 of the Ministerial Order No. 13 of 1991 on ‘The organisation of the transfer of sponsorships of non-national labours – the rules governing the same’, which states:

“Non-national labourers may be allowed to transfer one job to another and hence transfer of their sponsorship if they fall under the following categories:

(a) Engineers

(b) Doctors, pharmacists and male and female nurses

(c) Agricultural guides

(d) Qualified accountants and account auditors

(e) Qualified administrative officials

(f) Technicians operating on electronic equipment and laboratories

(g) Drivers who are licensed to drive heavy vehicles and buses.”

It is also to be noted that an employment ban issued by the Ministry of Labour does not extend to entities established and based in free-zones of UAE. And therefore, you may also explore the possibility to seek employment in such free-zone entities even if an employment ban is imposed on you.

Listed below are certain cases when a labour ban may not be imposed:

  • A Labour ban (or immigration ban) will not be imposed on UAE nationals
  • Expatriate workers moving into a government job will not be banned
  • Oil company employees may not be banned
  • Expat workers moving to another employer within the same free zone
  • Expatriates who have completed a fixed term contract, and have submitted proper resignation notice
  • Expatriates who have completed the one year term of an unlimited contract, and hold a NOC from the current employer
  • Expatriates who have worked for a company for more than three years on unlimited contract

For any further queries or for help in resolving your labour concerns, please contact us and we shall be glad to assist you.

What is the procedure once a Criminal offence is charged on a person in UAE?

If the offence is major, such as rape, murder, robbery and human trafficking, it is more likely that an arrest warrant will be issued and a police patrol sent to make the arrest.

Once at the police station the suspect is required immediately to give urine, blood and breath samples, regardless of the charge.

The suspect then faces police questioning, during which they will be asked about the alleged offence, whether they admit or deny involvement and if there are any witnesses who can testify for them.

Depending on their answers and the severity of the charge, they will either be set free or taken into custody.

In cases of minor crime, suspects can apply for police bail and will have to meet conditions to secure this, typically a cash deposit or a passport from the suspect or a close friend. Police stations do not generally accept the passport of a woman to be kept on guarantee as bail unless the situation warrants it.

Police bail may not be available for more serious charges.

After interrogation police have 48 hours in which to refer the suspect to the Public Prosecution based at the Police Station.

The Public Prosecutor will then review the case file, which contains details of the offence, suspect, victim and witnesses.

This Prosecutor will refer the case to a section of the Prosecution department, usually based where the alleged crime took place.

A date will then be set for the suspect to be interrogated by Prosecutors. Suspects who were not granted police bail now have a chance to apply for prosecution bail after the interrogation.

Suspects accused of minor crimes, such as writing bounced cheques, issuing verbal insults and embezzling small amounts of money, are more likely to be granted bail.

Cash bail varies from Dh500 for minor crimes to as much as Dh100,000 or more.

At this stage Prosecutors will also speak to the victims and witnesses and may carry out their own investigations separate to police.

Charges will then be determined and a decision made as to what court should hear the case, whether the Criminal Court or the Misdemeanours Court.

The case file will then be referred to the Court of First Instance, either Criminal or Misdemeanour, to set a date for the first hearing.

At the first hearing, the suspect will be charged and given the chance to enter a plea. If the suspect does not speak Arabic, a translator will be provided by the court.

Translators of languages commonly used in the UAE are usually available from the court, but if no translator is available the prosecution will be ordered to provide one.

During the court hearings, suspects may present their defence arguments and in some types of crime – including assault, issuing threats, bounced cheques – may submit a waiver from the victim to the judge.

Waivers, which must be authorised by the notary public, can prompt the judge to dismiss the case, or issue a lighter sentence.

At the hearings stage, defendants have the opportunity to again apply for bail.

For minor crimes, defendants can choose to represent themselves or to employ a lawyer. If the defendant cannot afford a lawyer the court is not required to appoint one unless the charges are punishable by life in jail or death.

For minor crimes – such as petty theft, forgery of documents like a driver’s licence and issuing threats – if the defendant pleads guilty the court is not obliged to listen to witness testimony, but for major crimes such testimonies must be heard, regardless of the plea.

After all testimonies are heard a date is set to issue a verdict.

Those found guilty have 15 days to file an appeal. The prosecution is given the same amount of time to object and seek a harsher sentence or to overturn an acquittal.

Suspects on bail must renew their bail at the same time as submitting their appeal.

A date is then set for the first hearing at the Appeals Court. The suspect will appear once more, enter a plea and present his or her defence.

When the Appeals Court issues its verdict the suspect has 30 days to make a submission to the Cassation Court to seek a retrial.

This court is a technical court that examines the procedures used in the trial and decides whether these were legal or not. It is not concerned with the details of the case itself.

If the Court of Cassation approves the submission, the case is returned to the Appeals Court for a retrial. If it does not approve the submission, the Appeal Court’s first ruling stands.

This ruling is usually final, except in cases carrying the death sentence. In such cases the Emirate’s Ruler must also approve the sentence if it is to be carried out.

For any further queries, please get in touch with us at the contact details provided

Which acts amount to criminal offences in UAE?

Criminal law cases may differ as per the offenses. In this article, let us look at some acts that are considered to be criminal offenses in the UAE.

Misdemeanors are petty crimes and are just minor offenses. This is punishable by fines or jail time of less than a year in a local prison. Examples of misdemeanor are petty theft, driving under the influence, minor in possession of alcohol, etc.

 Felony on the other hand, is a major crime committed and is punishable by imprisonment for more than a year. Examples of felony are rape, treason, kidnapping, robbery, murder, and drug trafficking.

 Juvenile Crimes involves minor defendants. Since minors are involved, they are given more lenient punishment considering their age, education and other factors.

 Capital Crimes are the worst type of criminal crime. This required a lifetime of imprisonment or death. Murder and rape are examples of capital crimes.

Here are other examples of crimes that are covered by Criminal Law:

  1. Assault and Battery – this includes harassment, injury and abuse to any individual be it a stranger or family or friend.
  2. Arson– this includes intentional explosion or starting a fire to damage a property. This is mostly punishable by jail time of up to 20 years.
  3. Armed Robbery– robbery, especially when armed, can be punished with serious penalties.
  4. Child Abuse– this is another serious criminal offense. Child abusers can be sentenced for long year in jail
  5. Kidnapping– This criminal law case happens when a person is forcibly taken by other persons and are for ransom. Kidnapping cases get more severe punishment if it involves kidnapping minor and kidnapping during carjacking.
  6. Hate Crimes –this involves racy acts of violence against someone of different race, sexual orientation or those with other certain traits.
  7. Man Slaughter – This is a type of criminal law case where an individual commits unintentional killing or death of a person.

Other than the universally accepted criminal offences mentioned above, tourists and visitors to UAE can also get embroiled in criminal cases owing to their lack of awareness of UAE norms and laws. Tourists, often, are not aware that certain acts which are considered “normal” in their country might land them into a criminal soup in the UAE. UAE being a Muslim country, its rules and policies are strictly embedded in ethics, morality and religion.

The best way to live freely in UAE is to know at least the basics of their rules and regulations. These will save you from innocently committed crimes and violations during your stay.

  • The Dubai Penal Code is very clear on its rules of public displays of affection.For example, only married couples are allowed to hold hands in public. But that is the only display of affection that is tolerated. It is not abnormal to be stopped by a plain clothed CID to show proof of marriage if found holding hands in public. Violations of this code such as hugging, kissing, cuddling in public may cause you deportation out of Dubai after being punished with flogging or fine. The very popular case of a British couple who were deported from Dubai after being flogged for being caught kissing in public, helped to raise the awareness of other expatriates regarding this issue.
  • Offensive gestures and behavior such as swearing are considered a grave public offence.Offenders of this law are subject to fine, deportation or imprisonment or all three. The recent imprisonment and subsequent deportation of an Australian woman for swearing and using derogatory words against a fellow expatriate in her Facebook post caused a wide stir in the media. This helped the public be more cautious in using derogatory words anywhere in the social networking media or in public.
  • All residents and tourists must show respect to the symbols of UAE (flag, national emblem) and religion.If these are abused, violators are punished by either payment of fines, imprisonment or deportation or all three.
  • Dress code is also a part in the criminal law of Dubai.Wearing indecent attire is an act of public indecency punishable under Article 358 of the Penal Code. It is considered to be an intentional act of indecency. No one should dress up inappropriately by revealing too much of their skin. Clothes must be in appropriate lengths and covering the modesty of the individual. Many shopping malls, government offices and other public places often display the kind of dress code that is accepted by them and in-fact either turn away visitors who are inappropriately dressed or provide them with abhayas or other temporary protective wear.
  • Smoking is only allowed in designated areas.UAE has banned smoking in public places especially in closed indoor spaces. Establishments must not provide a smoking room on the premises, although some may have an outdoor space for smoking. “No Smoking” signs must be posted, all ashtrays removed, and the sale, promotion or advertising of tobacco products must be strictly prohibited.
    • Taking photos of people without permission is prohibited.This gets worse when photos of women and families and specially those of Emiratis are taken without consent.
  • Dancing and playing loud music at public areas are forbidden.This includes the park, residential areas or beach. Bars and clubs must acquire a dancing permit or license before it can allow its customers to dance.

These are a list of only some of the acts that can amount to a criminal offence in the UAE. To know more, please get in touch with us at the Contact details provided.

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