†† †††††UAE Violations of Human Rights
Respect for the
Integrity of the person's freedom
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed
arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman Treatment or
The constitution prohibits torture; however, there were unverifiable
allegations of tortured political prisoners during the year, as well
as reports that a royal family member tortured a foreign national who
had allegedly overcharged him in a grain deal.
In additional, Shari'a (Islamic law) courts sometimes imposed
flogging sentences as punishment for adultery, prostitution, consensual
premarital sex, pregnancy outside marriage, defamation of character,
and drug or alcohol abuse. Authorities used canes to administer
floggings, resulting in substantial bruising, welts, and open wounds
on recipients' bodies.
There were also reports of prison guard brutality during the year. On
July 9, a Dubai
court sentenced 25 jail wardens and a former prison director of Dubai
Central Detention Facility to three- to six-month prison terms for
abusing their authority and beating inmates.
Among the allegations, wardens reportedly beat an Armenian inmate,
leaving him with a spinal injury that led to permanent disability.
The defendants appealed the ruling, and on November 18, the Dubai
Court of Appeals suspended the sentences of the 25 jail wardens. At year's
end the prison director's appeal was pending, and he was out on bail.
d. Prison and Detention
Prison conditions varied widely from emirate to emirate. Some prisons
were overcrowded, particularly in Abu Dhabi
Conditions for female prisoners were equal to or slightly better than
those for men. Prisoners convicted on national security grounds were
held separately from the general populace.
Conditions in these special sections were not significantly different
from other parts of the prisons. There were credible reports that
government officials discriminated against prisoners with HIV by separating
them from the general prison population and by not granting commuted
sentences or parole that other prisoners with similar records
Police in Dubai and Abu Dhabi stated that
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the International Committee
of the Red Cross had access to observe prison conditions if
However, on September 21, when members of the NGO Emirates Human
Rights Association (EHRA) went to visit female inmates at Dubai's
Al-Aweer Detention Facility, prison authorities denied the monitors
access "to protect the prisoners' social and psychological
Although charitable NGOs visited prisons during the year, they were
only permitted to provide material support. They were unable to
determine the welfare and well-being of the prisoners. However, some
clergymen reported psychological abuse and frequent physical abuse of
their imprisoned parishioners.
e. Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
The federal Ministry of Interior (MOI) oversees police general
directorates in each of the seven emirates; each emirate, under its
corresponding police general directorate, maintains its own police
force and supervises the police stations therein. Although all
emirate police forces theoretically are branches of the ministry, in
practice they operated with considerable autonomy and varying degrees
The police forces, under the umbrella of the MOI, are responsible for
internal security, and the federal armed forces are responsible for
While reported incidents of police corruption were uncommon, the MOI
intervened several times in criminal cases to ensure that local
police were compliant with federal law and policy. There were no
reports of impunity.
On November 10, a police officer was charged with stealing a
suspect's personal belongings, which were confiscated while the
suspect was being questioned. The officer allegedly kept the stolen
belongings, including money and jewelry, at his house.
On November 11, a police officer was charged with unlawfully
revealing secrets and alerting a brothel allegedly run in hotel rooms
of impending police raids.
f. Arrest and Detention
The law prohibits arrest or search without probable cause; however,
incidents occurred in practice. There were credible reports that
security forces failed to obtain warrants in some cases.
Police stations received complaints from the public, made arrests,
and forwarded most cases to the public prosecutor. Cases were then
transferred to the courts. In cases involving foreign defendants,
especially for crimes of moral turpitude, authorities often summarily
deported the defendants upon completion of their jail terms. Police
must within 48 hours report an arrest to the public prosecutor, who
then must determine within 24 hours whether to charge, release, or
further detain the suspect.
In practice the public prosecutor did not always meet the 24-hour
time limit, although police usually adhered to their 48-hour time
limit. Public prosecutors may order detainees to be held as long as
21 days without charge, or longer in some cases with a court order.
Courts may not grant an extension of more than 30 days of detention
without charge; however, judges may continue to renew 30-day
extensions indefinitely and without charge.
Public prosecutors may hold suspects in terrorism-related cases
without charge for six months. Once a suspect is charged, terrorism
cases are handled by the Supreme Court, which may extend the
detention period indefinitely. There is no formal system of bail;
however, authorities can temporarily release detainees who deposit
money, a passport, or an unsecured personal guarantee statement
signed by a third party. Defendants in cases involving loss of life,
including involuntary manslaughter, can be denied release in
accordance with the law.
Release is usually permitted after payment to the victim's family of
compensation, commonly called "diya" or "blood
money," which is a form of financial penalty imposed on
defendants in criminal cases involving a death.
A defendant is entitled to an attorney only after the police have
completed their investigation. As a result police sometimes
questioned accused persons for days or weeks without providing them
the benefit of legal counsel. Persons arrested on nonsecurity charges
were generally granted prompt access to family members.
On religious and national holidays the rulers of the individual
emirates regularly pardon and pay the debts of many prisoners.
According to press reports, rulers pardoned at least 1,200 prisoners
and paid their debts during the year.
The government deported most of the foreign nationals who were
pardoned. The government did not repeat its June-November 2007
amnesty for illegal expatriate residents.
Denial of Fair Public Trial:
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. In practice,
however, its decisions remained subject to review by the political
leadership. The judiciary was composed largely of contracted foreign
nationals potentially subject to deportation.
By tradition, the local rulers' offices, or "diwans,"
maintained the practice of reviewing many types of criminal and civil
offenses before cases were referred to prosecutors, reviewing
sentences passed by judges, returning cases to the court on appeal,
and approving the release of every prisoner whose sentence was
The diwans' involvement--usually in cases between two emirates or
between a citizen and noncitizen--led to lengthy delays prior to and
following the judicial process and lengthened the time defendants
served in prison. The diwan's decision in any court case is considered
final, and in the case of disagreement between a judge and diwan, the
diwan's decision prevails. Because diwans report to the minister of
the interior, there was often no functional separation between the
executive and judicial branches.
There is a dual court system. Shari'a courts adjudicate criminal and
family law matters based on each emirate's interpretation of Shari'a.
Civil courts adjudicate civil law matters and, except in Dubai, Abu
Dhabi, and Ras al-Khaimah, were accountable
to the Federal Supreme Court, 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, Abu Dhabi, and
Ras al-Khaimah have their own local and appellate courts, which have
jurisdiction over matters within their territories that the
constitution and federal legislation do not specifically reserve for
the federal system. These emirates did not refer cases in their
courts to the Federal Supreme Court for judicial review, although
they maintained a liaison with the federal Ministry of Justice.
In some emirates Shari'a courts considered all types of civil and
commercial cases as well as criminal cases and family matters. They
acted in accordance with their interpretation of Shari'a but were
required to answer to the Federal Supreme Court, with the exception
of the emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Ras
In criminal cases Shari'a was applied first, and if evidence required
by Shari'a was found insufficient, the penal code was used. Dubai had a
special Shia council to act on matters pertaining to Shia family law.
The military has its own court system. Military tribunals try only
military personnel. National security cases are heard solely by the
h. Trial Procedures
Defendants were presumed innocent until proven guilty. The
constitution provides the right to a public trial, except in national
security cases or cases deemed by the judge to be harmful to public
morality. Juries are not used. Defendants have the right to be
present at their trial and a limited right to legal counsel in court.
However, while awaiting a decision on official charges at the police
station or the prosecutorís office, a defendant is not entitled to
legal counsel. In all cases involving a capital crime or possible
life imprisonment, the defendant has a right to government-provided
The government may also provide counsel, at its discretion, to
indigent defendants charged with felonies punishable by imprisonment
of three to 15 years. The law provides prosecutors discretion to bar
defense counsel from any investigation.
Defendants and their attorneys can present witnesses and question
witnesses against them, and defense counsel had access to relevant
By law all prosecutions are conducted in Arabic; however, despite the
defendant's procedural right to a translator, in some cases involving
deportation of illegal residents, translation was provided only at
Each court system has an appeals process. Death sentences may be
appealed to the ruler of the emirate in which the offense is
committed or to the president of the federation.
In the case of murder, only the victim's family may commute a death
sentence. The government normally negotiates with victims' families
for the defendant to offer diya in exchange for forgiveness and a
commuted death sentence.
In cases in which a defendant is acquitted, the prosecutor may appeal
the acquittal to a higher court, which may receive additional
evidence. An appellate court must reach unanimous agreement to
overturn an acquittal.
i. Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political detainees or prisoners; however,
there were persons reportedly held incommunicado and without charge
for unknown reasons.
j. Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Citizens and noncitizens could access the courts to seek damages for,
or cessation of, human rights violations. The civil courts, like all
courts in the country, lacked full independence. Administrative remedies
were available for labor complaints and were particularly common in
cases of physical abuse of domestic workers.
k. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family or
The constitution prohibits entry into homes without the owner's permission,
except when police present a warrant in accordance with the law;
however, there were credible reports that security forces sometimes
failed to obtain warrants. Officers' actions in searching premises
were subject to review, and officers were liable to disciplinary
action if their actions were judged to be irresponsible.
Authorities did not commonly screen private correspondence; however,
there have been reports of censorship of incoming international mail.
Local interpretation of Shari'a law prohibits Muslim women from
marrying non-Muslims and Muslim men from marrying women not"of
the book," i.e., adherents of religions other than Islam,
Christianity, and Judaism.
a. Freedom of Speech
The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press;
however, the government restricted these rights in practice. The law
prohibits criticism of rulers and speech that may create or encourage
social unrest. Journalists and editors practiced extensive
self-censorship for fear of government retribution, particularly
since most journalists were of foreign origin and feared deportation.
Public criticism of the government and ministers is permissible in a
limited context, but criticism of ruling families, particularly
sheikhs, is not permitted. However, criticism of sheikhs occurred
with extreme caution and in private.
The government owned three of the country's newspapers and heavily
influenced the privately owned media, including through government
subsidies. The government-owned Emirates News Agency regularly
provided material in English and Arabic that some newspapers printed
Except for media located in Dubai's
Media Free Zone and foreign language media targeted to expatriates,
most television and radio stations were government-owned and
conformed to unpublished government reporting guidelines.
With the exception of Pakistan's
GEO TV, foreign journalists and news organizations operating out of
the Dubai Media Free Zone reported no restrictions on the content of
print and broadcast material produced for use outside the country.
Satellite receiving dishes were widespread and provided access to
international broadcasts without apparent censorship.
On June 15, Pakistani television channel GEO News permanently
relocated its office and staff to an undisclosed country. Station
managers claimed they were given 48 hours to leave the Dubai Media
Free Zone or halt the broadcasting of two shows. The shows allegedly
covered efforts to reinstate judges dismissed by Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's
By law the National Media Council (NMC), appointed by the president,
licenses and censors all publications, including private association
publications. Media outlets must inform the NMC of the appointment of
editors, and the NMC is responsible for issuing press credentials.
The law authorizes censorship of domestic and foreign publications to
remove criticism of the government, ruling families, or friendly
governments, as well as other statements that "threaten social
stability." According to the council and Dubai police officials, journalists
were not given specific publishing instructions; however, government
officials reportedly warned journalists when they published material
deemed politically or culturally sensitive. Journalists practiced
extensive self-censorship regarding the issues they chose to cover.
On May 2, the NMC instructed a printing press to stop printing six
vernacular publications, four dailies in Malayalam and two papers in
Urdu. The NMC explained that the printing press had not obtained
legal permission to print the papers.
On November 18, Abu Dhabi's
federal court of appeal ruled to ban Emarat Al Youm daily newspaper
from publishing for 20 days in a defamation case raised by the
Emirati Warsan Stables owners, who are members of the ruling family;
however, the newspaper continued publishing, and the ban was never
The court also fined the newspaper's chief executive officer and
editor in chief 20,000 dirhams (approximately $5,445) each. The case
revolved around a 2006 article alleging that the stable was doping
its horses to gain advantages in international races.
The government used libel laws to suppress criticism of its
leaders.Although no journalists have received prison sentences for
defamation since September 2007, when Vice President and Prime
Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum ordered that
journalists no longer be imprisoned for such violations, other
punishments for violations remained in force.
The NMC censors reviewed all imported media and banned or censored
before distribution any material considered pornographic, excessively
violent, derogatory to Islam, supportive of certain Israeli
government positions, unduly critical of friendly countries, or
critical of the government or ruling families. Publication of books
was treated in the same manner.
a. Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Citizens and noncitizens could access the courts to seek damages for,
or cessation of, human rights violations. The civil courts, like all
courts in the country, lacked full independence. Administrative
remedies were available for labor complaints and were particularly
common in cases of physical abuse of domestic workers.
government restricted access to some Web sites on the Internet and
monitored chat rooms, instant messaging services, and blogs.
Individuals and groups generally engaged in peaceful expression of
views via the Internet, including by e-mail, with few reports of
government prosecution or punishment, although self-censorship was
apparent in many chat rooms and blogs. The UN Human Development
Report estimated there were more than 300 Internet users per 1,000
On September 12, an appeals court upheld an August 2007 decision
sentencing Majan.net's owner and a blogger to one year in prison and
a fine of 70,000 dirhams (approximately $19,070) when they refused to
delete critical comments about a government official.
Etisalat, the country's only Internet service provider, blocked via a
proxy server material deemed inconsistent with the country's values.
Blocked material included dating and matrimonial sites; gay and
lesbian sites; sites concerning the Baha'i faith; sites originating
and sites explaining how to circumvent the proxy server. The proxy
server occasionally blocked broad categories of sites including many
that did not meet the intended criteria. Etisalat populated its proxy
server list of blocked sites primarily from lists purchased from
commercial companies, although individuals could also report
Social Web site Orkut and politically oriented Web sites
ArabTimes.com and UAEPrison.com remained blocked during the year.
Etisalat denied having the authority to block any site and referred
all complaints and suggestions to the NMC.
The law explicitly criminalizes the use of the Internet to commit a
wide variety of offenses, providing fines and prison terms for
Internet users who violate political, social, and religious norms.
In addition to criminalizing acts commonly associated with
"cyber crimes," such as hacking, phishing, scams, and other
forms of financial fraud, the law also provides penalties for using
the Internet to oppose Islam, proselytize Muslims to join other
religions, "abuse" a holy shrine or ritual of any religion,
insult any religion, or incite someone to commit sin.
The law criminalizes use of the Internet in transcending "family
values" by publishing news or photos pertaining to a person's
private life or family or by promoting a breach of public decency.
a. Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
The government restricted academic freedom and censored academic
materials destined for schools. The government banned students from
reading texts featuring sexuality or pictures of the human body. The
government also restricted participation in certain cultural events,
primarily events that are deemed un-Islamic.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association;
however, in practice the government did not respect these rights.
c. Freedom of Assembly
The law requires a government permit for organized public gatherings.
The government did not permit public meetings or demonstrations for
On December 31, security forces in the emirate of Sharjah prevented
an assembly that was intended to show solidarity with the people of Gaza. In
practice the government did not regularly interfere with informal
nonpolitical gatherings held without a government permit in public
places, unless there were complaints.
During the year there continued to be periodic gatherings without
government permission, sometimes of laborers protesting wages. Except
in the few cases in which crowds became destructive or violent, the
government did not interfere.
Citizens normally confined political discussions to informal
gatherings, or majlises, held in private homes.
d. Freedom of Association
Political organizations, political parties, and trade unions are
illegal. All NGOs were required to register with the Ministry of
Social Affairs, and many received government subsidies.
Approximately 100 domestic NGOs were registered with the ministry,
mostly citizens' associations for economic, religious, social,
cultural, athletic, and other purposes. More than 20 unregistered
local NGOs that focused on nonpolitical topics operated with little
or no government interference.
On June 15, 83 former teachers lodged protests with the Ministry of
Education over their transfers to other ministries or nonteaching
positions. According to the government, the teachers were reassigned
as part of ongoing education reform initiatives; however, the
teachers alleged that the government was suspicious of their
membership in the Reform and Social Guidance Association and
therefore reassigned them.
Some of the teachers' wives, who also worked at the Ministry of
Education, claimed their promotions were suspended, and there were
allegations that some of the teachers' children were denied
Associations must follow the government's censorship guidelines and
receive prior government approval before publishing any material.
Participation by NGO members in events outside the country is
subsidized and directed by the government. Participants must obtain
government permission before attending such events, even if they are
d. Freedom of Religion
The constitution provides for freedom of religion in accordance with
established customs; however, the law prohibits Muslims the freedom
to change religion, and the government restricted religious freedom
The federal constitution declares that Islam is the official religion
of the country; conversion to Islam was viewed favorably, and the
government funded or subsidized approximately 95 percent of Sunni
Individual emirates exercised considerable autonomy in religious
matters. According to the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and
Endowments (GAIAE), there was no formalized method of granting
official status to religious groups other than by granting them the
use of land for the construction of a building. Land grant applications
are filed at the local level but may include a letter from the GAIAE.
Several non-Muslim groups operated houses of worship where they can
practice their religion freely. Groups that did not have their own
buildings were limited in their ability to assemble for worship; they
were required to use the facilities of other religious organizations
or worship in private homes.
The police or other security forces did not interfere with these
gatherings during the year. Members of the country's large Hindu community
had to obtain official permission to use one of the two cremation
facilities and associated cemeteries.
Islamic studies were mandatory in public schools and for all Muslim
children in private schools.
The government prohibited Muslims from converting to other religions.
Under Shari'a the ultimate penalty for converting from Islam to
another religion is death; however, the death penalty was rarely
carried out, and there have been no reports that it has been applied
to any case of conversion.
Non-Muslims were subject to criminal prosecution, imprisonment, and
deportation if they were found proselytizing or distributing
religious literature to Muslims; however, there were no reports of
such actions during the year. Missionaries continued to perform
humanitarian work in the country and faced no restrictions on
The government monitored religious groups, including those professing
adherence to Islam. A GAIAE committee drafted and distributed all
Friday sermons to Sunni and Shia imams, and the government monitored
the sermons for adherence to the scripted content. The emirate of Dubai had
approval authority over preachers in private mosques.
The government banned or censored certain religious publications and
sometimes blocked Web sites containing religious information. These
sites included information on the Baha'i faith, Judaism, negative
critiques of Islam, and testimonies of former Muslims who had
converted to Christianity.
e. Societal Abuses and Discrimination
There were no reports of societal abuses based on religion; however,
some discrimination existed, and anti-Semitism was present in the
There were no synagogues for the small, resident, noncitizen Jewish
population. Anti-Semitism was apparent in news articles and editorial
cartoons depicting negative images of Jews. These expressions
occurred primarily in private daily newspapers without government
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2008 International Religious
Freedom Report at www.state.gov/g/drl/irf.
f. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced
The law provides for freedom of movement within the country,
emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected
these rights in practice; however, there were legal restrictions on
foreign travel. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on a humanitarian basis but
did not grant refugee status or asylum.
Male citizens involved in legal disputes under adjudication were not
permitted to travel overseas. Custom dictates that a husband can bar
his wife, minor children, and adult unmarried daughters from leaving
the country by taking custody of their passports.
However, there was no enforcement of this custom at exit points that
would bar an individual from traveling, unless there was a court
order. The government may revoke naturalized citizens' passports and
citizenship status for criminal or politically provocative actions.
However, such revocations were rare, and there were no reports of its
use during the year.
The constitution prohibits forced exile, and there were no reported
cases during the year.
g. Protection of Refugees
The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status
in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of
Refugees and its 1967 protocol, and the government has not
established a system for providing protection to refugees.
In practice the government did not provide protection against the
expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or
freedom would be threatened.
Refugees generally were required to petition for settlement in third
countries. The government continued to detain some persons seeking
refugee status, particularly Palestinians and non-Arabs, while they
awaited resettlement in third countries.
h. Stateless Persons
Citizenship of the country is generally derived from one's parents.
Estimates suggested that 20,000 to 100,000 persons without any
citizenship or proof of citizenship lived in the country; however,
the government continued to improve naturalization procedures for
these stateless residents (known as Bidoon) during the year.
From September 7 to November 6, registration centers in four emirates
accepted naturalization applications from individuals who had been
resident in the country at least since the federation's establishment
in 1971. On October 18, the government granted nationality to 51
previously stateless persons.
Children of female citizens married to noncitizens do not acquire
citizenship at birth; however, female citizens under these
circumstances can apply for citizenship for their children, and the
government generally grants it.
Foreign women may receive citizenship through marriage to a citizen
after 10 years of marriage, and anyone may receive a passport by
Most Bidoon lacked citizenship because they did not have the
preferred tribal affiliation used to determine citizenship when the
country was established. Others had entered the country, legally and
illegally, in search of employment.
The Bidoon faced discrimination in employment and had limited access
to medical care and education. Without passports or other identity
documents, their movement was restricted, within the country and