Arrest, Detention Procedures in the UAE: Safeguarding Rights and Ensuring Justice

These procedures dictate the handling of crime suspects from apprehension to legal proceedings

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Pavitra Shetty

Published on June 19, 2024, 11:54:24


arrest and detention

Arrest and detention procedures in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are essential components of its criminal justice system, designed to uphold justice while safeguarding individual rights.

Governed by Federal Law No. 35 of 1992 and subsequent amendments, these procedures dictate how individuals suspected or accused of crimes are handled from apprehension through to legal proceedings.

Arrest under criminal procedure involves the lawful apprehension of suspects based on sufficient evidence, ensuring they are informed of their charges and rights promptly.

Within 48 hours, suspects must appear before the Public Prosecution, which then decides on their further detention or release pending trial. Conversely, detention for questioning allows authorities to gather evidence, with initial periods extendable based on investigative needs.

The UAE's legal framework ensures transparency and fairness, empowering judicial officers and the Public Prosecution to oversee investigations and uphold the rule of law. Understanding these procedures is essential for anyone involved in legal matters within the UAE, fostering compliance with legal norms and protecting the rights of all parties involved.

This article provides a detailed exploration of both the arrest and detention procedures in the UAE, shedding light on their implementation and significance in the country's legal landscape.

Arrest under Criminal Procedure

Arrest in criminal cases involves apprehending individuals suspected of committing crimes to ensure their appearance before authorities and prevent further offences. Law enforcement officers can issue arrest warrants based on sufficient evidence for felonies and certain misdemeanours punishable by penalties other than fines.

After arrest, individuals must be promptly informed of the charges against them and their right to remain silent. Within 48 hours, they are brought before the competent Public Prosecution for further proceedings. Within another 48 hours, they must appear before a judge who decides on their release or detention pending trial.

Arrest under Civil Procedure

Arrest in civil cases is governed by Federal Decree-Law No. 42/2022 of Civil Procedure. If a misdemeanour occurs during trial sessions, such as aggression against the court panel or false testimony, the court can order the arrest of the perpetrator. The arrested individual is then referred to the Public Prosecution to initiate legal actions against them.

Individuals have the right to file a grievance against the decision to issue an arrest warrant or the refusal to issue one. The grievance must be filed within seven days of the decision or notification date. The judge responsible for reviewing the grievance issues a decision to cancel or modify the contested decision.

Detention under Criminal Procedure

Detention for questioning is a temporary measure used to gather evidence related to specific incidents or investigations. In the UAE, individuals can be detained for up to 72 hours initially, which includes 24 hours for initial suspicion and 48 hours before meeting with the prosecution.

This period is extendable based on the necessity of ongoing investigations. Under Federal Decree-Law No. 38/2022, personal freedoms are protected, and no individual can be subjected to arrest, inspection, detention, imprisonment, prevention from travelling, or electronic monitoring unless specified by law.

Detention under remand can be ordered if there is sufficient evidence and the offence committed is a felony or a misdemeanour punishable by penalties other than a fine. The initial detention period under remand is seven days, with the possibility of renewal for up to 14 days.

The Public Prosecution supervises penal institutions and places of detention under remand. If extending detention beyond specified periods is deemed necessary for the investigation, the Public Prosecution must present the lawsuit file to a judge of the competent Criminal Court.

The judge examines the case, including the defendant's statements, and decides whether to extend detention for a maximum of 30 days, with the possibility of renewal.

Criminal Cases Lapse

Criminal cases in the UAE lapse under specific conditions: felonies punishable by death sentences lapse after 20 years, other felonies after 10 years, misdemeanours after 3 years, and violations after 1 year, unless there is a legal provision for an extension due to ongoing proceedings.

Judicial Officers and Evidence Collection

Judicial officers from various government departments, including police, public prosecution and criminal courts, are authorised to inspect crimes and gather evidence.

Additional persons authorised for evidence gathering under Article 32 of the Criminal Procedures Law include officers of the armed forces, border police, coastguards, immigration officers, inspectors from municipalities and the Ministry of Health and Prevention.

Role of Police and Public Prosecution

The police play a crucial role in maintaining public safety, recording statements from complainants and witnesses, arresting suspects, conducting investigations and executing orders from the Public Prosecution to aid investigations.

Criminal proceedings in the UAE typically begin with filing a complaint at the local police station where the offence occurred. The police may take statements from all involved parties and refer the matter to the prosecutor's office within 48 hours of the complaint being filed.

The Public Prosecution is responsible for questioning the accused within 24 hours and deciding on their arrest or release as per Article 47 of the law.

Understanding these procedures is essential for navigating the UAE legal system, ensuring fair treatment and protecting individual rights under the law. Whether in criminal or civil contexts, adherence to these procedures safeguards against arbitrary detention or arrest, promoting a just legal process. 

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