What are the legal rights of an individual when arrested by law enforcement?

Table of Contents

What are the legal rights of an individual when arrested by law enforcement

Arrest procedures and the treatment of detainees in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are governed by legal provisions aimed at safeguarding the rights of individuals while ensuring public order. This article examines key aspects of arrest procedures, detainees’ rights, and potential concerns within the UAE’s legal framework.

The UAE legal System

The legal system and evidentiary rules in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are rooted in civil law and influenced by Egyptian, French, and Islamic legal traditions. The federation consists of seven Emirates, each with its own legal jurisdiction. The three primary sources of law in the UAE are legislation, Islamic Sharia, and custom. While the judiciary does not engage in lawmaking, decisions of higher courts may be referenced.

The UAE judiciary is divided into local and federal branches as outlined in Article 104 of the Constitution. Local judicial authorities in each Emirate handle matters not assigned to the Union judicature. However, Article 105 allows for the transfer of jurisdiction to Federal courts upon an Emirate’s request. Some Emirates, such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Ras Al Khaimah, maintain their own judicial systems.

The courts in the UAE, whether regional or federal, are categorized into criminal and civil courts. Additionally, Sharia courts address personal disputes. Each type of court—criminal, civil, and Sharia—comprises a Court of First Instance, Court of Appeal, and Court of Cassation. The Federal Supreme Court, the highest court in the UAE, holds the same status as the Court of Cassation. Federal laws are applied in the courts, with local courts giving precedence to federal laws such as the Civil Code or Criminal Laws.

In instances where no federal laws exist, the Emirs of Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah, and Dubai have the authority to pass laws and issue decrees. The composition of judges varies across the courts, with one judge presiding over the Court of First Instance, three judges for the Court of Appeal, and five judges for both the Court of Cassation and the Federal Supreme Court.

Courts of Cassation are present in specific Emirates, including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Ras Al Khaimah. In other Emirates, cases are heard by the Federal Supreme Court, which exclusively deals with legal issues. Lower courts must adhere to the legal principles and decisions established by the Federal Supreme Court and the Court of Cassation. Considering the role of judges in admitting evidence in the UAE, it is crucial to recognize the hierarchical structure and the influence of precedent-setting decisions from higher courts on lower courts.

Probable Cause and Citizen Protections

The law in the UAE expressly prohibits the arbitrary arrest or search of citizens without probable cause. Individuals have the right to remain silent, and arresting officers are mandated to inform the accused of this right along with the specific charges upon arrest or detention. This provision underscores the importance of ensuring that arrests are grounded in reasonable suspicion and legal justification.

Detainee Rights During Investigation

While awaiting a decision on official charges at a police station or the prosecutor’s office, detainees do not have an automatic entitlement to legal counsel. This aspect raises considerations regarding the balance between the investigative process and the rights of the accused. It is imperative to assess the adequacy of safeguards in place to protect detainees during this crucial stage of legal proceedings.

Investigation and Bail

The formal investigation in the UAE follows the prosecution’s decision to continue the case for trial preparation. At this juncture, the prosecution determines whether to continue the detention (for seven days) or release the charged person on bail. The investigations team may request detention extensions, granted by the public prosecutor, with the first extension lasting an additional seven days and subsequent extensions for 30-day periods each. The accused has the right to appeal 30-day extensions, provided the appeal is filed within three days of notification.

In cases where a formal investigation was discontinued but new evidence surfaces, the authorities may choose to reopen the case against the suspect. The prosecutor’s office is responsible for submitting new evidence to the court, initiating procedures for the issuance of a formal arrest with charges.

After the expiration of the bail period, the accused may face detention if bail/release conditions are not met. The public prosecutor has the authority to set additional bail conditions for release and can decide to retain the accused’s passport, with the option of requiring a guarantor’s passport if the accused does not possess one.

The Criminal Trial

All court procedures in the UAE are conducted in Arabic, and statements are either taken in Arabic or translated into it. The accused is provided with a sworn translator by the public prosecutor and the courts. Trials take place before a judge in a closed setting, with only legal counsel, the defendant, victim(s), parties to the case, and any expert witnesses present. Parents and legal guardians may attend when minors are involved, and there are no jury trials in the UAE.

Duration of a Trial and Sentencing

The duration of a trial may vary, and there is no specific time limit, with motions for extensions and postponements being common. Sentencing in the UAE is divided into two categories: Sharia-based and Chastisement.

Sharia-based punishments include qisas (equal punishment) and diyya (compensatory payment for a victim’s death). Diyya, capped at AED 200,000, is applied in various cases, including motor vehicle accidents. Chastisement penalties encompass death, life imprisonment, temporary imprisonment, confinement, detention, flagellation (up to 200 lashes), and fines.

Detention periods before conviction are typically credited as time served when determining release dates. The Islamic calendar, based on the lunar system, is used for calculating months and years, differing slightly from the Gregorian calendar.

Appeal Process

After a guilty verdict, there is a 15-day window to appeal. During the appeal process, the accused often remains in custody until a hearing before the court of appeal. The court of appeal’s decision can be further appealed to the highest court if a legal error is asserted in the application of the law by lower courts. Consultation with legal counsel is recommended for those considering filing an appeal.

Alternative Sentencing for Minor Offences

Minor offences may result in jail terms being replaced with community service. Offences punishable by not more than six months or a fine may be substituted with community service lasting up to three months. Public prosecutors oversee community service, and failure to fulfill duties may lead to the court ordering a jail term equivalent to the period of community service.

Timelines and Reporting Requirements

Law enforcement agencies are generally required to report arrests to the public prosecutor within 48 hours, emphasizing the swift and transparent handling of cases.

Extended Detention Periods and Security-related Cases

Concerns have been raised about the extended detention periods without formal charges or preliminary judicial hearings. The law permits state security officers to detain individuals for up to 106 days, but reports of indefinite detention in certain cases underscore potential challenges to due process. An analysis of such cases is essential to determine whether these prolonged detentions align with the principles of justice and individual rights.

Timelines for Submission of Charges

Under UAE law, prosecutors are mandated to submit charges to a court within 14 days of receiving a police report. Judges are restricted from extending a detainee’s detention beyond 30 days without formal charges. However, once charges are brought, judges have the authority to renew 30-day extensions indefinitely. Concerns arise as multiple detainees have reported a lack of information about charges for extended periods, raising questions about the timely communication of essential details regarding their cases.

Detainee Rights and Treatment

Detainees have the right to understand the charges against them, yet reports suggest that authorities may delay informing individuals of charges for months. There are also allegations of authorities pressuring or coercing detainees into signing documents before accessing legal representation, highlighting potential infringements on detainees’ rights to due process.

Language Barrier and Translation Services

The law requires police to provide a translator when an individual does not understand Arabic. Noncitizen detainees, however, have reported challenges with translation services, including charges presented in Arabic and inadequate translation support. Ensuring effective communication and access to legal information for all detainees, irrespective of their language proficiency, is essential for upholding the principles of justice.

Treatment of Political and Security Detainees

Authorities differentiate between prisoners arrested for political or security reasons and other prisoners, often segregating them within separate sections of a prison. The State Security Department handles these cases, occasionally holding individuals in undisclosed locations for extended periods before transferring them to regular prisons. Evaluating the implications of such treatment on detainees’ rights and due process is essential.

Terrorism-Related Cases and Rehabilitation Programs

In terrorism-related cases, public prosecutors may detain suspects without charges for six months. Once charged, the Federal Supreme Court can extend the detention indefinitely. The counterterrorism law allows for the establishment of rehabilitation centers under the Munassaha program. The law stipulates reporting on detainees’ status every three months, culminating in the public prosecutor submitting a final opinion on rehabilitation outcomes to inform the court’s decision on potential release.

Release Conditions and Compensation in Cases Involving Loss of Life

Authorities may temporarily release detainees who provide financial deposits, passports, or unsecured personal promissory statements signed by a third party. Electronic travel ban systems in Abu Dhabi and Dubai further allow authorities to restrict individuals involved in pending legal proceedings from leaving the country without physical passport confiscation. However, passports are routinely held until sentencing.

Pretrial release may be denied in cases involving loss of life, with authorities releasing prisoners upon completion of diya (blood money) payments. Judges may grant diya payments as compensation to the victim’s family in accordance with Sharia law. Notable instances include the ruler of Sharjah paying diya on behalf of an individual in March and an Ajman court awarding 200,000 dirhams ($54,450) in diya to a family in June.

Right to Legal Representation

Upon the completion of investigations and the formal filing of charges, defendants in the UAE are legally entitled to have an attorney represent them. This fundamental right is pivotal to ensuring a fair and just legal process, emphasizing the importance of legal counsel in navigating complex legal proceedings.

Government Provision of Counsel for Indigent Defendants

In cases involving indigent defendants facing charges punishable by imprisonment, the government has the discretion to provide legal counsel. This discretionary provision is aimed at ensuring that individuals without the financial means to hire an attorney still have access to representation during legal proceedings.

Mandatory Counsel in Capital Cases

The law mandates that the government must provide legal counsel in cases where indigent defendants face punishments of life imprisonment or the death penalty. This underscores the recognition of the gravity of such charges and the necessity to ensure that defendants facing severe consequences receive adequate legal representation.

Right to a Fair and Public Trial

The UAE constitution guarantees the right to a fair and public trial, and the judiciary generally upholds this right. Notably, virtual court systems in Abu Dhabi and other emirates have been instrumental in allowing detainees and prisoners to participate in hearings remotely, ensuring continued access to the justice system amid pandemic-related restrictions.

Freedom of Movement and Right to Leave the Country

The UAE legal framework provides for freedom of internal movement, emigration, and repatriation. While the government generally respects these rights, certain legal restrictions on foreign travel exist. Stateless persons, lacking passports or other identity documents, face limitations on both domestic and international movement.

Foreign Travel Restrictions and Legal Disputes

Authorities often restrict the foreign travel of citizens and residents involved in ongoing legal disputes or investigations. Individuals with outstanding debts or unresolved legal cases may face arrest while in transit through international airports. Abu Dhabi and Dubai have established a system for individuals to verify travel bans related to unsettled debts or pending legal actions, with options for settling debts at the airport and challenging travel bans in court.

Passport Seizures and Restriction of Foreign Travel

At the emirate level, prosecutors have discretionary powers to seize passports of foreign citizens during criminal or civil investigations, contributing to limitations on foreign travel. Noncitizen debtors, facing challenges without a passport and valid residence permit, encounter difficulties finding employment, making it challenging to repay debts or maintain legal residency.

Clemency in Death Penalty Cases in the United Arab Emirates

The imposition of the death penalty in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) serves as a capital punishment for crimes deemed to endanger the safety of society. However, the application of this severe penalty is infrequent, as a consensus among a panel of three judges is requisite for the decision, and the execution cannot be carried out until it receives confirmation from the UAE president.

Crimes that may incur the death penalty encompass those impacting the security and interests of the state, such as aiding the enemy and espionage, offenses against the state’s internal security like treason, perjury, false oaths, abstention from testifying, crimes against individuals including premeditated murder, rape leading to death, adultery, and violations of freedom resulting in death, as well as drug trafficking or promotion.

Under the application of Islamic law in the UAE, specifically concerning murder cases, only the victim’s family possesses the authority to request the death penalty or relinquish that right and opt for diyya, a compensatory payment. Remarkably, not even the UAE president is empowered to intervene in this decision, emphasizing the gravity and autonomy of the victim’s family in such matters.

However, there exist circumstances wherein clemency can be sought, and the death penalty may be commuted to life or temporary imprisonment. Cases presenting extenuating excuses or grounds for clemency allow for a reconsideration of the severity of the punishment. This discretionary power provides a mechanism for the justice system to show leniency in certain situations, taking into account factors that may mitigate the gravity of the crime.

In essence, while the death penalty is a legal recourse in the UAE for crimes of utmost severity, the intervention of clemency reflects a nuanced approach to justice. The stringent criteria and the involvement of multiple judicial authorities, along with the final confirmation by the UAE president, underscore the cautious and deliberative process inherent in capital punishment cases. The provision for clemency further exemplifies the recognition of individual circumstances and the possibility for a more merciful outcome in certain instances, aligning with principles of fairness and justice within the legal system of the UAE.

Judges’ Role in Admitting Evidence

The legal system of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is characterized by its roots in civil law, influenced by Egyptian, French, and Islamic legal traditions. This article aims to delve into the intricate nuances of the judges’ role in admitting evidence within the UAE’s legal framework.

Foundations of the Legal System:

The UAE is a federation comprising seven Emirates, each with its own jurisdiction, predominantly governed by civil law. Islamic Sharia, legislation, and custom collectively form the triad of legal sources. While the judiciary does not engage in lawmaking, decisions of higher courts hold sway.

Court Structure

The UAE’s courts, whether local or federal, are bifurcated into criminal and civil divisions, with Sharia courts handling personal disputes. The hierarchy includes Courts of First Instance, Courts of Appeal, and Courts of Cassation. The Federal Supreme Court, akin to the Court of Cassation, stands as the apex judicial authority.

Admissibility of Evidence

In the UAE legal system, judges wield the authority to identify and accept evidence pertinent to a case. Criminal proceedings hinge on the elucidation of crimes and remedies outlined in the law. Evidence plays a pivotal role in establishing the veracity of allegations, providing context to accused individuals, and delineating the substance of criminal acts.

Search Warrants

Search warrants play a crucial role in the legal system, enabling law enforcement to search for and seize evidence related to criminal activities. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) governs the process of obtaining and executing search warrants. This article explores various procedural aspects of search warrants, with a focus on electronic evidence.

Scope and Seizure of Electronic Evidence

Traditionally, search warrants are designed for physical items, and the CPL does not explicitly require a list of items to be seized. However, considering the broad scope of Section 61 of the CPL, which empowers judicial police officers to seize objects related to a crime, including those used in its commission, electronic devices may be seized under a search warrant.

Electronic Trail and Physical Items:
While the CPL does not specifically address the seizure of electronic evidence, it is argued that physical items like CDs, diskettes, and computer hard drives containing electronic evidence may be seized. This allows for further investigation to trace the electronic trail associated with the gathering of additional evidence.

Challenges with Entire Computer Systems
In cases where an entire computer system is linked to a network with electronic evidence dispersed across different geographical locations, challenges arise. Establishing the number of computers, types of network connections, and third-party services becomes crucial for a comprehensive search and seizure process.

Scope Defined by the Search Warrant
The authority granted by a search warrant defines the scope of search and seizure. Different warrants are issued for hardware and software evidence. For example, in cases of hacking, hardware may not be criminally illegal but could serve as a storage compartment for the crime, requiring the issuance of search warrants for mirror copies instead of confiscation.

Inspection of Computer Software
The word ‘things’ in Section 51 of the CPL, which allows inspection, is broad enough to include computer software. However, the interpretation of this term remains untested, and clarity is needed to determine its application to electronic evidence.

Execution of Search Warrants
Search warrants in the UAE are executed by prosecuting officers, and the public prosecutor determines whether the search should be conducted on-site or off-site. The lack of specific time limits for search warrants raises concerns, and the executing officers must follow procedural instructions to ensure a lawful execution.

Search Location Challenges
With computers becoming integral to daily life, on-site and off-site searches present practical difficulties. The public prosecutor has the authority to decide the search location, but considerations should be given to minimizing the impact on businesses and third parties.

Warrantless Searches:
Exceptions allowing warrantless searches exist in the CPL under specific circumstances. However, these exceptions do not explicitly address the seizure of electronic evidence, raising questions about the adequacy of current legal provisions in handling digital materials.

Judicial Discretion and Freedom of Proof
The UAE legal system operates on the principle of evidential freedom, allowing judges to determine the most authentic means of uncovering the truth. However, judges are bound by the doctrine of freedom of proof and judicial understanding, precluding decisions based on personal beliefs or emotions. Decisions must align with established legal principles and be logically justified.

Role of Judges in Admitting Evidence
Section 209 of the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) grants judges the authority to identify material evidence for a case. Judges must evaluate the admissibility of evidence, ensuring compliance with legal standards. The Federal Supreme Court emphasizes the judge’s ultimate power in procuring evidence to ascertain the truth.

Scrutiny of Evidence and Judicial Decisions
Judges play a pivotal role in scrutinizing evidence during trial proceedings. Section 179 of the CPL empowers judges to order the production of necessary evidence to reveal the truth. Judges must ensure that evidence is sufficient to find an individual guilty, and doubts must be interpreted in favor of the accused. Legitimate and judicially acceptable evidence is crucial for a fair trial.

Challenges in Handling Electronic Evidence
While the UAE’s legal position mirrors civil law jurisdictions, challenges arise in handling electronic evidence. Judges, prosecutors, and lawyers may lack sufficient knowledge of electronic evidence, hindering its effective utilization. The absence of standards and rules for electronic evidence further complicates its regulation within the UAE courts.


Conduct a
court and police
case check

Shopping cart


No Service Requested.

Continue Shopping