Blood Money and Justice: Exploring the Legal and Ethical Dimensions of Diya in the UAE

Diya is a key aspect of victim compensation through blood money, which is a financial payment mandated by the Penal Code

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Ayushi Tripathi

Published on June 29, 2024, 11:32:21


blood money and legal implications

The United Arab Emirates Penal Code, established by Federal Decree-Law No. 31 of 2021, serves as the foundation for criminal justice in the nation. It outlines a range of punishments for offenses, including fines, imprisonment terms of varying lengths (temporary or life), and even the death penalty. The Code also integrates principles derived from Islamic law, specifically regarding retribution (Qisas) and compensation for victims (Diya).

Diya is a key aspect of victim compensation through blood money, which is a financial payment mandated by the Penal Code. In the UAE, Diya is a form of compensation paid by a perpetrator to a victim or the victim's family for death or injury, based on Islamic Sharia principles. It can be traced back to the Holy Quran, where it is intended to promote justice and forgiveness through financial compensation.

Diya serves as an alternative to Qisas, which refers to retaliation, allowing the victim’s family some retribution. In cases of involuntary manslaughter, where a killing occurs unintentionally, Diya serves as a form of financial restitution to the victim's family. The standard amount for involuntary manslaughter is set at Dh200,000 according to Article 30.

However, it's important to note that Diya is not the sole consequence. As stipulated by Article 383, the perpetrator may also face additional penalties outlined in the Penal Code, such as imprisonment.

This means that someone who commits a crime resulting in death could be sentenced to jail time while simultaneously being obligated to pay blood money to the victim's family.

It's crucial to understand that Diya is not awarded in all criminal cases. It's strictly applicable to offenses against human life and society, such as unintentional killings, causing serious injuries, or permanent disabilities.

Arsh Compensation

The UAE Penal Code also recognises compensation for bodily harm beyond involuntary manslaughter. Arsh refers to financial compensation awarded for the loss of limbs, organs, or bodily functions. The payment amount is not a fixed sum but rather a proportion of the standard Diya (Dh200,000) determined by a medical evaluation.

A team of medical professionals assesses the disability percentage sustained by the victim, and this rating is then applied to the base Diya amount to calculate the final Arsh compensation.

For instance, a 50 per cent disability would result in an Arsh compensation of Dh100,000. Notably, the courts may award the full Diya amount in cases of severe injuries, such as losing both limbs.

Application of Diya

Diya plays a significant role in compensating families for deaths caused by traffic accidents. However, the amount awarded is not absolute. Mitigating factors, such as the victim's own actions contributing to the accident, can lead to a reduction in Diya.

This principle was illustrated in a case before the Federal Supreme Court (Case No. UAE 42/2014). Here, a driver was found responsible for a child's death in a traffic accident and ordered to pay Diya. The driver appealed the decision, arguing contributory negligence on the part of the child's father who allegedly let the child run near moving vehicles.

Even though the Federal Supreme Court, in its 2015 decision, rejected the appeal, the court still acknowledged the trial court's authority to assess the link between fault and damages, including the extent to which the victim or others contributed to the accident. Crucially, the court determined that the charges against the driver were proven to the point of conviction, rendering the argument of contributory negligence irrelevant at the appeal stage.

This case emphasises the nuanced application of Diya in the UAE. While it offers compensation to the victim's family, the system considers the degree of fault on both sides, ensuring a balance between restorative justice and accountability.

In contrast, Diya is not used in cases considered to be an “Act of God.” For example, in a case regarding a passenger who died of a heart attack during a flight, the family sought compensation through Diya and other psychological damages. They argued that under the Montreal Convention, which was embodied in UAE law through Federal Decree No. 13 of 2000, the airline negligently handled the medical emergency and should have taken reasonable steps to mitigate the condition.

The UAE court, influenced by expert testimony on aviation matters, ultimately concluded that the airline bore no fault in the passenger's death. The heart attack was classified as an "Act of God," absolving the airline of liability. Furthermore, the court acknowledged the crew's appropriate actions, including seeking medical advice via Medlink (the standard procedure for onboard medical consultations) and providing available medical care.

The timeframe and location (over the sea) also factored into the court's decision, deeming an emergency landing impractical. The case illustrates that the concept of Diya is only applicable when the airline's negligence is established, and it does not preclude claims for other forms of compensation.

Compensation Beyond Blood Money

The UAE legal system allows for compensation beyond Diya in certain circumstances. A landmark case (Case No. 111/2020) involved an insurance company disputing additional compensation for moral damages awarded to the parents of a child killed in a traffic accident, on top of the Diya payment.

The company argued that Article 299 of the UAE Civil Code prohibits combining these forms of compensation. However, the Dubai Court of Cassation disagreed.

While the article restricts combining Diya with other forms of compensation meant as financial gain, the court distinguished moral damages as a remedy for the emotional and psychological suffering endured by the parents.

The court emphasised that these damages are separate from Diya, which serves as financial compensation for the loss of life. Therefore, the court upheld the additional compensation for the parents' emotional distress. This case clarifies that Diya does not preclude victims' families from seeking compensation for intangible losses associated with their tragedy.

In essence, the UAE Penal Code strives to achieve a balance between punishment and financial support for the families of victims in specific criminal cases.

This system reflects the influence of Islamic legal principles while incorporating a contemporary approach to criminal justice. Additionally, while the standard Diya amount is established, there may be variations depending on the specific circumstances of the crime and the gender of the victim.

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