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DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994

                UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven 
emirates established in 1971.  None have democratically elected 
institutions or political parties.  Each emirate retains 
extensive control over mineral wealth (including oil) and some 
aspects of defense and internal security.  Most emirates are 
governed through traditional tribal mechanisms, relying heavily 
on the open majlis or meeting wherein citizens may express 
their concerns directly to their leaders.  In accordance with 
the 1971 Constitution, the seven emirate rulers comprise a 
Federal Supreme Council, the UAE's highest legislative and 
executive body.  The Supreme Council selects a President and 
Vice President from its membership; the President in turn 
appoints the Prime Minister and Cabinet.  The Supreme Council 
meets officially only occasionally, although the leaders meet 
frequently in more traditional settings.  The Council of 
Ministers (Cabinet) manages the federation on a day-to-day 

In February the Federal Supreme Council revived the Federal 
National Council (FNC), a 40-member body of prominent citizens 
appointed by the leaders of the seven emirates in ratios 
reflecting the size of each emirate.  The FNC had been inactive 
since the Gulf war.  It has no legislative authority but can 
question Cabinet ministers and make recommendations to the 
Supreme National Council.  
Each emirate maintains its own police force, but only the 
Federal Government and the Emirate of Dubai have independent 
internal security organizations.  

The UAE has a largely free market economy based on oil and gas 
production, trade, and light manufacturing.  The Government 
owns the majority share of the oil enterprise in the largest 
Emirate, Abu Dhabi, with the other shares held by various 
private oil company equity partners.  The four emirates with 
small or nonexistent petroleum resources are dependent on 
federal government subsidies for such essential services as 
health, electricity, water, and education.  The economy, which 
provides the UAE with one of the world's highest per capita 
incomes, is heavily dependent on foreign labor, which makes up 
80 percent of the population.  These workers, primarily from 
Asian or other Arab countries, perform most manual and 
technical labor.

A number of human rights remained closely restricted in 1993.  
The principal problems continued to be the denial of the right 
of citizens to change their government, incommunicado 
detention, and restrictions on the freedoms of speech, press, 
assembly, association, and worker rights.  Women continue to 
make progress in education and in the work force, but certain 
types of discrimination persist.  Although there had been a 
trend toward somewhat freer expression in 1991 and 1992, there 
was no significant progress in 1993.  The press continued to 
avoid direct criticism of the Government and exercised 
self-censorship on topics sensitive to the Government.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killings

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial 

     b.  Disappearance

No political disappearances were reported.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits torture or degrading treatment, and 
there were no reports of such abuse in 1993.  In the past, 
Shari'a courts were known to sentence Muslims and non-Muslims 
to flogging for crimes related to alcohol abuse and adultery.  
The Federal Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that Shari'a 
punishments may not be imposed on non-Muslims.

In 1993 there was a trend toward harsher sentencing.  In March 
a UAE national and a foreign national convicted of piracy were 
each sentenced to the amputation of a hand and a foot; this 
followed the sentencing of another foreign national to the 
amputation of his hand for stealing.  However, in both of these 
cases higher authorities are said to have ordered lighter 
sentences.  No amputation sentences were known to have been 
carried out.   

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arrest, search, detention, or 
imprisonment except in accordance with the law, and the laws of 
each emirate prohibit arrest or search without probable cause.  

Under the Criminal Procedure Code, the police must report any 
arrest to the Attorney General within 48 hours, and he must 
determine within the next 24 hours whether to charge, release, 
or, with sufficient police justification, allow limited, 
further detention pending an investigation.  Once charged, 
detainees are brought to trial reasonably expeditiously, 
although the Code includes no specific right to a speedy 
trial.  There is no formal system of bail, but detainees 
sometimes are released upon the deposit of money or an 
important document such as a passport.  The laws of the UAE 
allow incommunicado detention until the accused has been 
formally charged, and it is practiced.

Exile of citizens is prohibited by the Constitution and is not 

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The UAE has a dual system of Shari'a (clerical) and civil 
courts, each of which deals with both criminal and civil 
cases.  The civil courts are usually part of the federal system 
and are answerable to the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi.  
The Shari'a courts are administered by each individual emirate, 
though they are ultimately answerable to the Federal Supreme 
Court.  The court systems in the Emirates of Dubai and Ras 
al-Khaimah are independent of the federal system, although they 
do apply the Civil Procedure Code.  Each court system has a 
multilevel appeals process, and verdicts in all capital cases 
are appealable to the President.  The nature of the case 
determines which court system hears a particular case, but most 
cases fall under the jurisdiction of the civil courts.  Due 
process rights are uniform under both Shari'a and civil court 
procedure.  There is a presumption of innocence unless guilt is 

Legal counsel is readily available and permitted to represent a 
defendant in both court systems.  The court may appoint legal 
counsel if counsel agrees to provide services free; only Dubai 
has an office of public defender.  The losing party may be 
required to pay the winner's legal fees.  The judge is 
responsible for looking after the interests of a person not 
represented by counsel.  Under the new Criminal Procedures 
Code, the accused has a right to defense counsel at trial in 
cases that involve a capital crime or possible life 
imprisonment.  If the defendant is indigent, the Government 
will provide counsel.  The Federal Supreme Court ruled in 1993 
that a defendant in an appeal case has a "fundamental right" to 
select his attorney and that this right supersedes a judge's 
power to appoint an attorney for the defendant.

There are no jury trials.  All cases, except national security 
cases and those deemed by the judge likely to harm public 
morality, are open to the public.  Most judges are foreign 
nationals, primarily from other Arab countries.  In 1993 the 
Ministry of Justice initiated a program to train and develop 
UAE national judges and prosecutors.

There is no separate national security court system.  The 
military has its own court system based on Western military 
judicial practice.  Military tribunals try only military 

There are no known political prisoners.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The Constitution prohibits entry into homes without the owner's 
permission, except in accordance with the law.  Although the 
police may enter homes without a warrant and without 
demonstrating probable cause, an officer's actions in searching 
premises are subject to review, and he is subject to discipline 
if he acts irresponsibly.  Anyone other than a police officer 
must have a court order to enter a private home.  Local custom 
and practice place a high value on privacy, and entry into 
private homes without the owner's permission is rare.  There is 
no surveillance of private correspondence.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Although UAE citizens are constitutionally assured freedom of 
speech, in practice there is censorship, and most inhabitants, 
especially foreign nationals, are circumspect in public 
discussions of sensitive political topics or in criticizing the 
Government.  In 1993 an American citizen was detained briefly, 
but not arrested, for allegedly profaning the President in 
conversation with a third party.

Many of the local English- and Arabic-language newspapers are 
privately owned, but all receive government subsidies.  All 
foreign publications are routinely subjected to censorship 
reviews before distribution.  Domestic publications practice 
self-censorship, making formal censorship rare.  Journalists 
also practice self-censorship in articles concerning the UAE 
destined for publication abroad.

In 1993 members of the newly revived FNC were often quite 
critical of government policies in their discussions during FNC 
sessions.  Their criticisms were covered in the press.

The UAE press continues to be cautious in reporting on 
government policy, the ruling families, national security, 
religious matters, and relationships with neighboring states.  
A trend toward more open expression of opinion on subjects 
sensitive to the Government that began during the Gulf war did 
not continue in 1993.  There were credible reports that the 
Government temporarily revoked the passport of an intellectual 
who published a newspaper article advocating democratic 
election of the Federal National Council members.  Yet the 
Arabic press also carried articles written by non-UAE Arabs 
calling for greater democracy in the region.

All television and radio stations are government owned and 
conform to government reporting guidelines.  However, 
television stations in Abu Dhabi and Dubai continue to 
broadcast the programs of the Cable News Network (CNN), with no 
apparent censorship.

The Censorship Department of the Ministry of Information and 
Culture reviews all imported newspapers, periodicals, books, 
films, and videos, and bans items considered pornographic, 
violent, derogatory to Islam, favorable to Israel, unduly 
critical of friendly countries, or critical of the Government 
or the ruling family.  Widespread legal ownership of satellite 
dishes has undermined the Government's censorship efforts.  
Authorities confiscate material written in Hebrew.  The small 
publishing industry is subject to government censorship in 
accordance with the above criteria.

In 1993, after an appeal, 2 of the 10 Indian expatriates 
convicted in 1992 of blasphemy for producing and performing in 
a play that was critical of Islam and Christianity had their 
sentences extended from 6 to 10 years.  Six of the convictions 
were upheld and six were overturned. 

The unwritten but widely accepted ban on criticism of the 
Government also restricts academic freedom.  However, the trend 
observable over the last several years toward more overt 
criticism of the Government by academics continued to be 
evident in 1993.  In December 1992, a seminar entitled "Human 
Rights in the World and in the Arab World" was held by the UAE 
Bar Association and the UAE Association of Sociologists in 
Dubai.  The participants presented papers containing 
recommendations on monitoring human rights both inside and 
outside the UAE.  Though the Government did not allow the 
publication of a key paper on human rights in the UAE, the 
seminar received extensive coverage in the press.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

These freedoms are tightly restricted.  Political organizations 
are prohibited.  Organized public gatherings require a 
government permit.  Each emirate determines its own practice on 
public gatherings, with some emirates taking a more liberal 
approach to seminars and conferences on sensitive subjects (see 
Section 2.a.).  Citizens normally confine their political 
discussion and debate to the numerous "assemblies" (majlises), 
held in private homes, which are a local tradition.  There are 
no restrictions on the formation of private associations.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Islam is the official religion.  UAE citizens are predominately 
Sunni Muslims, but Shi'a Muslims are also free to worship and 
maintain mosques throughout most of the UAE.  However, Shi'as 
are not permitted mosques in the Emirate of Ras al Khaimah.  
According to a press report, the Emirate of Dubai has placed 
private mosques under the control of its Department of Islamic 
Affairs and Endowments.  This move gives the Government greater 
control over the appointment of preachers and was reportedly 
taken by the Government to prevent the spread of what it 
considers religious extremism.  By tradition and social custom, 
non-Muslims are free to practice their religion but may not 
publicly proselytize or distribute religious literature.  A 
British Christian was recently arrested and sentenced to 6 
months in prison for proselytizing.  There are Christian 
churches and Hindu and Sikh temples, some built on land donated 
by the ruling families, in the major cities.  Foreign clergymen 
are allowed to minister to expatriate congregations.  Christian 
teaching is permitted in private schools for Christian 
children.  Religious groups are allowed to engage in private 
charitable activities. 

(See Section 2.a. on the appeal of Indian nationals charged 
with blasphemy.)

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

There are no restrictions on freedom of movement or relocation 
within the country, except for security areas such as defense 
and oil installations.  Unrestricted foreign travel and 
emigration are permitted to male citizens except those involved 
in financial disputes under adjudication.  However, a husband 
may bar his wife and children from leaving the country without 
his permission.  All citizens have the right to return.  There 
is a small population of stateless residents, many of whom have 
lived in the UAE for more than one generation.  They are 
Bedouins or the descendants of Bedouins who are unable to prove 
that they are of UAE origin.  Since they do not hold passports, 
they may not travel abroad.  

During and immediately after the Gulf war, the authorities 
revoked the residence permits and employment visas of some 
long-term residents of Palestinian, Iraqi, Yemeni, Jordanian, 
and Sudanese origin.  In 1993 fewer of these residents had 
their residence permits or visas revoked, particularly those in 
highly technical professions.  The Government reportedly asked 
known dissidents of Syrian and Egyptian nationality to leave 
the country; they were not forcibly repatriated but were told 
to find another country of residence.

UAE nationals are not restricted in seeking or changing 
employment.  However, only foreign nationals in specific 
occupations, primarily professional, may change employers 
without first leaving the country for 6 months.  This law is 
often not enforced.

There are no formal procedures for accepting refugees, and 
persons who seek refugee status are routinely jailed or 
detained while awaiting resettlement in a third country.  
Although one may acquire a UAE passport through marriage or 
presidential fiat, there is no formalized procedure for 
naturalization.  Noncitizens are expected to leave the country 
at retirement age but may remain if sponsored by their children.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

The UAE has no formal democratically elected institutions, and 
citizens do not have the right to change their government or 
even to form political parties.  Although there are 
consultative councils at the federal and national levels, most 
executive and legislative power is in the hands of the seven 
emirate rulers, their extended families, and those persons and 
families to whom they are allied by historical ties, marriage, 
or common interest.  These emirate political leaders constitute 
the dominant political force at the national level.

Members of the Federal National Council (FNC) are appointed by 
the rulers of each emirate in a ratio depending on the size and 
wealth of the emirate.  The FNC has no legislative authority 
but may summon ministers, criticize government policies, and 
make recommendations to the Cabinet.  Its sessions are open to 
the public.

Decisionmaking at the federal level is through consensus of the 
seven emirates and their leading families.  This need for 
consensus tends to slow decisionmaking at the federal level.  
Citizens have the opportunity to make their views and 
grievances heard through attendance at majlises held by the 
rulers of each emirate.  Women may attend women's majlises 
presided over by the wives of the rulers.

Although the rulers and ruling families by tradition are 
presumed to have the right to rule, their incumbency ultimately 
depends on the quality of their leadership and their 
responsiveness to their subjects' needs.  Emirate rulers are 
accessible, in varying degrees, to citizens who have a problem 
or a request.  The choice of a new emirate ruler falls to the 
ruling family in consultation with other prominent tribal 

Women are free to hold government positions, but there are few 
women in senior positions because they are relatively new to 
government service and because there continues to be strong 
family pressure against women entering the workplace.  Although 
the UAE's Shi'a minority has enjoyed commercial success, few of 
their members manage to reach top positions in the Federal 

The political dominance of the ruling families is intertwined 
with their substantial involvement and influence in economic 
life.  The ruling families and their close allies control and 
profit from petroleum production and, with important merchant 
families, have a major stake in the UAE's commercial life.  A 
complex system of distribution of wealth, including through the 
federal and emirate governments, ensures generous subsidies and 
a high standard of living for most UAE citizens.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The UAE does not have any internal groups that monitor human 
rights.  Government prohibitions on freedom of press and 
association would make it very difficult for a private group to 
investigate and publicly criticize the Government's human 
rights restrictions.  The Human Rights Seminar held in December 
1992, which was covered by the UAE press, has led to a small 
increase in public awareness of human rights issues.  There 
were reports that a group of citizens has begun to meet 
irregularly to discuss human rights and democracy in the UAE.  
In December the Abu Dhabi Government sponsored a human rights 
symposium attended by foreign and domestic academics, jurists, 
and government officials.  A representative of an international 
human rights organization attended and delivered a paper at the 

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


Most women play a family-centered, subordinate role in UAE 
society because of the frequency of early marriage and 
traditional attitudes about women's activities.  As noted 
earlier, husbands may bar their wives and children from leaving 
the country without their consent, and married women may not 
take employment without their husbands' written consent.  In 
cases of divorce, Islamic law is observed.  The woman receives 
custody of children until they are 7 years of age.  After that, 
a child usually lives with his or her father unless there are 
circumstances that convince judicial authorities that custody 
should be given to the mother.  In divorce cases in which the 
mother is a non-Muslim or a foreigner, the court usually grants 
custody to the father regardless of the child's age.  A woman 
who remarries forfeits her right to the custody of children 
from a previous marriage.  Polygyny, in accordance with Islamic 
law, is permitted for men.  In practice, few UAE men have more 
than one wife.  Women are restricted from holding majority 
shares in most major types of businesses.  UAE women employed 
outside the home generally receive equal pay for equal work.  A 
woman's property is not commingled with that of her husband.  

Women's education continues to advance rapidly.  Female 
enrollment at the UAE University, for example, now constitutes 
70 percent of the student body, though this is partially 
attributable to the fact that UAE women rarely study abroad, as 
many UAE men do.  Opportunities for women are also growing in 
government service and in traditional occupations such as 
education and health.  Women are officially encouraged to 
continue their education, and government-sponsored women's 
centers provide adult education and technical training 
courses.  The UAE military service accepts women volunteers in 
the officer corps and as enlisted personnel.  A special 
military training course for women, started after the Gulf war, 

Spouse abuse is rarely reported in the UAE.  Knowledgeable 
sources report a low incidence of medical cases resulting from 
spouse abuse.  However, when reported, the local police 
authorities take action to protect women from abuse.  UAE laws 
also protect women from verbal abuse or harassment from men, 
and violators are subject to criminal action.  There continue 
to be credible reports of abuse of female domestic servants by 
both UAE and foreign employers, but the authorities do take 
action against the offender when an incident is reported.  


The Government is committed to the welfare of children.  
Figures on federal and emirate expenditures on children are not 
available, but UAE children receive free health care, free 
education, guaranteed housing, and the other perquisites of UAE 
citizenship.  Expatriate workers are not permitted to bring 
their families to the UAE unless they make a sufficient wage to 
provide for them.  They must pay for the schooling of their 
children, but health care charges are negligible.  

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Discrimination based on national origin, while not legally 
sanctioned, is prevalent in the UAE (see Section 2.d.).  
Employment, immigration, and security policy as well as 
cultural attitudes towards foreign workers are conditioned by 
national origin.  There is some discrimination against the 
Shi'a minority, based on their national origins rather than on 
their religious affiliation. 

     People with Disabilities

The UAE has no federal legislation requiring accessibility for 
the disabled.  However, the Ministry of Labor and Social 
Affairs sponsors the UAE Handicapped Centers, which provide 
facilities and services to the disabled.  Services range from 
special education and transportation assistance to sending a 
team to the Special Olympics.    

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

UAE law does not grant workers the right to organize unions and 
to strike.  It is a criminal offense for public sector workers 
to strike.  In practice, there are no unions and no strikes.  
Foreign workers who might attempt to organize a union risk 

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

UAE law does not grant workers the right to engage in 
collective bargaining, and it is not practiced.  Most of the 
work force is composed of foreign nationals.  Workers in the 
industrial and service sectors are normally employed under 
contracts that are subject to review by the Ministry of Labor 
and Social Affairs.  The purpose of the review is to ensure 
that the pay offered is enough for the employee's basic needs 
and to secure a means of living.  For the resolution of 
work-related disputes, workers must rely on conciliation 
committees organized by the Ministry of Labor and Social 
Affairs or on special labor courts.  Domestic servants and 
agricultural workers are not covered by UAE labor laws and thus 
have great difficulty in obtaining any assistance in resolving 
labor disputes.  In the free port where manufacturing takes 
place, the same laws and regulations apply as in the rest of 
the country.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is illegal and not practiced. 
However, foreign workers are often recruited in their own 
countries by unscrupulous agents who bring them into the UAE 
under conditions approaching indenture.  

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Labor regulations prohibit employment of persons under age 15 
and have special provisions for employing those aged 15 to 18.  
Laws prohibiting the employment of children are enforced by the 
Department of Labor.  Labor regulations allow contracts only 
for adult foreign workers.  In January the Government announced 
new regulations prohibiting the employment of young children as 
camel jockeys and decreed that camel jockeys should weigh no 
less than 45 kilograms.  It also created a Camel Racing 
Association which has effectively enforced the new rules during 
the 1993 racing season.  Small children who were employed as 
jockeys were returned to their parents.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no legislated or administrative minimum wage.  Supply 
and demand determine compensation.  However, according to the 
Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, there is an unofficial, 
unwritten minimum wage rate which would afford a worker and 
family a minimal standard of living.  As noted in Section 6.b., 
the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry reviews labor contracts 
and does not approve any contract that stipulates a clearly 
unacceptable wage.

The standard workday and workweek are set at 8 hours per day, 6 
days per week, but these standards are not strictly enforced.  
The law provides for a minimum of 24 days per year of annual 
leave plus 10 national and religious holidays.

Most foreign workers receive either employer-provided housing 
or a housing allowance, medical care, and homeward passage 
through their employers.  The vast majority of such workers, 
however, do not earn the minimum salary ($1,000 per month) 
required for them to sponsor their families for a UAE residence 
visa.  Employers have the option to petition for a ban from the 
work force of 1 year for any foreign employee who leaves his 
job without fulfilling the terms of his contract.

The Government sets health and safety standards, which are 
enforced by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labor and 
Social Affairs, municipalities, and Civil Defense.  Every large 
industrial concern is required to employ an occupational safety 
officer certified by the Ministry of Labor.  If an accident 
occurs, a worker is entitled to fair compensation.  Health 
standards are not uniformly observed in the housing camps 
provided by employers.  Workers' jobs are not protected if they 
remove themselves from what they consider to be unsafe working 
conditions.  However, the Ministry of Labor may require 
employers to reinstate workers following an investigation of 
the alleged unsafe working conditions.  All workers have the 
right to complain to the Labor Ministry, whose officials are 
accessible to any grievant, and an effort is made to 
investigate all complaints.  The Ministry, which oversees 
worker compensation, is, however, chronically understaffed and 
underbudgeted so that complaints and compensation claims are 

Foreign nationals from India, Pakistan, the Philippines, 
Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka continue to seek work in the UAE in 
large numbers.  There are many complaints that recruiters in 
the country of origin use unscrupulous tactics to entice manual 
laborers and domestics to come to the UAE, promising 
unrealistically high salaries and benefits and at times bring 
them in illegally.  The workers must promise the recruiters 
several months of future wages to secure their passage.  When 
they come there are often no jobs waiting for them so they must 
find jobs as undocumented workers, accepting wages far below 
the accepted minimum wage.  Such cases may be appealed to the 
Labor Ministry and, if this does not resolve the issue, to the 
courts.  However, many laborers choose not to protest or to 
engage in such a lengthy process for fear of reprisals by their 
employers.  Moreover, since the UAE tends to view foreign 
workers through the prism of their various nationalities, 
employment policies, like immigration and security policies, 
have at times been conditioned upon national origin.

[end of document]


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