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TITLE:  UNITED ARAB EMIRATES HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                      UNITED ARAB EMIRATES


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven 
emirates established in 1971.  None has any democratically 
elected institutions or political parties.  Each emirate 
retains control over its own oil and mineral wealth and some 
aspects of defense and internal security, although the Federal 
Government asserts primacy in most matters of law and 
government.  Traditional rule has generally been patriarchal, 
with political allegiance defined in terms of loyalty to tribal 
leaders.  Citizens may express their concerns directly to their 
leaders via traditional mechanisms, such as the open majlis, or 
council.  In accordance with the 1971 provisional Constitution, 
the seven emirate rulers comprise a Federal Supreme Council, 
the UAE's highest legislative and executive body.  The Council 
selects a President and Vice President from its membership; the 
President in turn appoints the Prime Minister and Cabinet.  The 
Council meets occasionally, although the leaders meet 
frequently in more traditional settings.  The Cabinet manages 
the Federation on a day-to-day basis.

Each emirate maintains its own police force, but only the 
Federal Government and the Emirate of Dubai have internal 
security organizations.

The UAE has a free market economy based on oil and gas 
production, trade, and light manufacturing.  The Government 
owns the majority share of the petroleum production enterprise 
in the largest emirate, Abu Dhabi.  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 
provides citizens with one of the world's highest per capita 
incomes but is heavily dependent on foreign workers who 
comprise 80 percent of the population.

A number of human rights continued to be restricted in 1994. 
The main problems included the denial of the right of citizens 
to change their government and limitations on the freedoms of 
speech, press, assembly, association, and worker rights.  Women 
continue to make progress in education and in the work force, 
but some types of discrimination persist.  The press continued 
to avoid direct criticism of the Government and exercised 
self-censorship on topics sensitive to the Government.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or extrajudicial killing.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

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

There were no reports of torture in 1994.  The Constitution 
prohibits torture or degrading treatment.  Shari'a, or Islamic, 
courts frequently impose flogging on Muslims found guilty of 
adultery, prostitution, and drug and alcohol abuse.  According 
to press accounts, punishments for adultery and prostitution 
have ranged from 80 to 200 lashes.  In several cases, Muslims 
convicted of drunkenness have been sentenced to 80 lashes.  
Non-Muslims may also be sentenced to such punishments, but the 
Federal Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that convictions do not 
require the imposition of Shari'a penalties on non-Muslims.  In 
1994 several non-Muslims were reportedly sentenced to lashing 
after their convictions for adultery and prostitution.  There 
was no indication that the punishments were carried out.  No 
amputations 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.  The laws of 
each emirate prohibit arrest or search without probable cause.

Under the Criminal Procedures Code, the police must report 
arrests within 48 hours to the Attorney General who must 
determine within the next 24 hours whether to charge, release, 
or order further detention pending an investigation.  The 
Attorney General may order detainees held for up to 21 days 
without charge.  After that time, the authorities must obtain a 
court order for further detention without charge.

The authorities bring detainees to trial reasonably 
expeditiously, although the Code does not specify a right to a 
speedy trial.  There is no formal system of bail, but the 
authorities may temporarily release detainees who deposit money 
or an important document such as a passport.  The law permits 
incommunicado detention.

The Constitution prohibits exile, and it is not practiced.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The UAE has a dual system of Shari'a (Islamic) and civil 
(secular) courts.  The nature of the case determines the 
venue.  The civil courts are generally part of the federal 
system and are answerable to the Federal Supreme Court in Abu 
Dhabi.  The Shari'a courts are administered by each emirate and 
are also 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 apply the 
Civil Procedure Code.  Each court system has an appeals 
process.  Death sentences may be appealed to the President.  
Legal procedures are uniform in both Shari'a and civil courts.  
Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The Constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary 
under the Supreme Court which has the power of judicial review 
and has original jurisdiction over disputes between emirates 
and between the Federal Government and emirates.  The 
Constitution designates the Shari'a as the basis of all 
legislation.  Judicial procedures reflect a mixture of Western 
and Islamic models.

In February the President decreed that the Shari'a courts, and 
not the civil courts, would have the authority to try virtually 
all criminal cases.  The decree did not affect the emirates of 
Dubai, Umm Al-Quwain, and Ras al-Khaimah which have lower 
courts independent of the federal system.  Nevertheless, 
despite the decree, judges in criminal cases involving 
non-Muslims may decide to impose civil court penalties, and 
appeals courts may overturn or modify Shari'a penalties imposed 
on non-Muslims by lower courts.

Legal counsel may represent defendants in both court systems.  
Under the new Criminal Procedures Code, the accused has a right 
to counsel in all cases involving a capital crime or possible 
life imprisonment.  Only the Emirate of Dubai has a public 
defender's office.  If the defendant is indigent, the 
Government will provide counsel.  The 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.  A single judge normally renders the 
verdict in each case, whether in the Shari'a or civil court 
system.  All trials are public, except national security cases 
and those deemed by the judge likely to harm public morality.  
Most judges are foreign nationals, primarily from other Arab 
countries; however, the Ministry of Justice has begun to train 
UAE citizens as judges and prosecutors.

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

There are no known political prisoners.

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

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 
disciplinary action if he acts irresponsibly.  Officials other 
than a police officer must have a court order to enter a 
private home.  Local custom places a high value on privacy, and 
entry into private homes without the owner's permission is 
rare.  There is no known surveillance of private correspondence.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.   Freedom of Speech and Press

Although the Constitution provides for freedom of speech, most 
people, especially foreign nationals, refrain from criticizing 
the Government in public.

Many of the local English- and Arabic-language newspapers are 
privately owned, but receive government subsidies.  Foreign 
publications are routinely subjected to censorship before 
distribution.  Journalists censor themselves regarding 
reporting on government policy, the ruling families, national 
security, religion, and relations with neighboring states.

In May the Government banned distribution of the 
Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat for 1 week after the 
newspaper commented on a memorandum from the Minister of 
Economy and Commerce on the UAE's possible inclusion on the 
United States Trade Representative's "priority-watch" list.

All television and radio stations are government owned and 
conform to government reporting guidelines.  Satellite 
receiving dishes are widespread and provide access to 
international broadcasts without apparent censorship.  Censors 
at the Ministry of Information and Culture review imported 
newspapers, periodicals, books, films, and videos and ban any 
material considered pornographic, violent, derogatory to Islam, 
favorable to Israel, unduly critical of friendly countries, or 
critical of the Government or the ruling family.  Authorities 
may confiscate material written in Hebrew.

The case of the 11 Indian nationals convicted in 1992 and 1993 
by Shari'a court for producing and performing in a play that 
allegedly insulted Islam and Christianity drew to a close in 
1994.  Four of the defendants, who had been serving various 
prison terms, were released in December and reportedly departed 
the country.  Of the remaining seven defendants, six apparently 
departed the country in 1993 after an appeals court overturned 
their convictions.  The seventh defendant was tried in absentia.

The unwritten but generally accepted ban on criticism of the 
Government also restricts academic freedom, although in recent 
years academics have been more open with their criticism.

     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.  Some are more tolerant of seminars and 
conferences on sensitive subjects.

Citizens normally confine political discussions to the numerous 
assemblies or "majlises," held in private homes.  There are no 
restrictions on such gatherings.  However, private associations 
must follow the government's censorship guidelines if they 
publish any material.

     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, except in the Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah.  
According to a press report, the Emirate of Dubai in 1993 
placed private mosques under the control of its Department of 
Islamic Affairs and Endowments.  This gave the Government 
greater control over the appointment of preachers and was 
reportedly intended to prevent the spread of what it considers 
religious extremism.

Non-Muslims are free to practice their religion but may not 
proselytize publicly or distribute religious literature.  The 
major cities have Christian churches and Hindu and Sikh 
temples, some built on land donated by the ruling families.  
The Government permits the foreign clergy to minister to 
expatriate congregations.  It also allows non-Muslims to engage 
in private charitable activities and to send their children to 
private schools.

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

There are no limitations on freedom of movement or relocation 
within the country, except near 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.  The Government does not issue them passports.

Citizens are not restricted in seeking or changing employment.  
However, foreign workers, except for primarily professional 
ones, may not change employers without first leaving the 
country for 6 months.  This law is often not enforced.

The Government does not have any formal procedure for accepting 
refugees.  It may detain persons seeking refugee status, 
particularly non-Arabs, while they await resettlement in a 
third country.  There is no formal procedure for 
naturalization, although foreign women receive citizenship by 
marriage to a UAE citizen, and anyone may receive a passport by 
presidential fiat.

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 emirate levels, most 
executive and legislative power is in the hands of the Federal 
Supreme Council.  The seven emirate rulers, their extended 
families, and those persons and families to whom they are 
allied by historical ties, marriage, or common interest wield 
most political power in their own emirates.  Decisions at the 
federal level are generally made by consensus of the sheikhs of 
the seven emirates and their leading families.

A federal consultative body, called the Federal National 
Council (FNC), consists of advisers appointed by the rulers of 
each emirate.  The FNC has no legislative authority but may 
question ministers and make policy recommendations to the 
Cabinet.  Its sessions are usually public.

The choice of a new emirate ruler falls to the ruling family in 
consultation with other prominent tribal figures.  By 
tradition, the rulers and ruling families are presumed to have 
the right to rule, but 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.

Tradition rather than law has limited the role of women.  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 is pressure in many 
families against women entering the workplace.  Although the 
small Shi'a Muslim minority has enjoyed commercial success, few 
Shi'a Muslims have top positions in the Federal Government.

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

There are no local human rights groups.  Government 
restrictions on freedom of press and public association would 
make it difficult for such groups to investigate and publicly 
criticize the Government's human rights performance.

Nonetheless, a few informal public discussions of human rights 
have taken place in recent years, such as a seminar in December 
1992 and an international symposium in late 1993.  Foreign and 
domestic academics, jurists, government officials, and a 
representative of an international human rights organization 
participated in this symposium.  These events, along with some 
press coverage of local human rights issues, have led to a 
modest increase in public awareness of human rights issues.

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

     Women

Most women play a subordinate role in society because of the 
frequency of early marriage and traditional attitudes about 
women's activities.  As noted in Section 2.d., husbands may bar 
their wives and children from leaving the country, and married 
women may not accept employment without their husbands' written 
consent.  Islamic law is applied in cases of divorce.  The 
woman receives custody of children until they are 7 years of 
age.  Children older than 7 years live with their fathers 
unless judicial authorities decide otherwise.  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.  Islamic law permits 
polygamy for men, but they rarely practice it.  Women are 
restricted from holding majority shares in most businesses.  
Women who work outside the home generally receive equal pay for 
equal work, but do not receive equal benefits, such as housing.

Women continue to make rapid progress in education.  They 
constitute 70 percent of the student body at the UAE 
University, largely because women rarely study abroad. 
Opportunities for women have grown in government service, 
education, and health services.  Women are officially 
encouraged to continue their education, and 
government-sponsored women's centers provide adult education 
and technical training courses.  The armed forces accept women 
volunteers.  There is a special military training course for 
women which started after the Gulf War.

Spousal abuse is rarely reported.  When reported, the local 
police authorities may take action to protect women from 
abuse.  The laws protect women from verbal abuse or harassment 
from men.  Violators are subject to criminal action.  There 
continue to be credible reports of abuse of female domestic 
servants by both UAE and foreign employers (see Section 6.e.).

The law prohibits cohabitation by unmarried couples.  The 
Government may imprison or deport noncitizen women if they bear 
children out of wedlock.  In the event that courts sentence 
such women to prison, the local authorities will hold the 
newborn children in a special facility until the mothers' 
release and deportation.  Children may remain in this facility 
longer in the event of a custody dispute.

     Children

The Government is committed to the welfare of children.  
Children receive free health care, free education, and 
guaranteed housing.  There is no pattern of societal abuse of 
children.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Discrimination based on national origin, while not legally 
sanctioned, is prevalent (see Section 2.d.).  Employment, 
immigration, and security policy as well as cultural attitudes 
towards foreign workers are conditioned by national origin.

     People with Disabilities

There is no federal legislation requiring provision of 
accessibility for the disabled.  However, the Ministry of Labor 
and Social Affairs sponsors 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

There are no unions and no strikes.  The law does not grant 
workers the right to organize unions or to strike.  Foreign 
workers, who make up the bulk of the work force, risk 
deportation if they attempted to organize unions or strike.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law does not grant workers the right to engage in 
collective bargaining, and it is not practiced.  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 will satisfy the employee's basic needs and 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.  Labor laws do not cover domestic 
servants and agricultural workers, who have difficulty in 
obtaining any assistance to resolve their labor disputes.

In the Jebel Ali free zone in Dubai Emirate, the same labor 
laws 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, some unscrupulous employment agents bring foreign 
workers to 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.  
The Department of Labor enforces the regulations.  Other 
regulations permit employers to engage only adult foreign 
workers.  In 1993 the Government prohibited the employment of 
children as camel jockeys and of jockeys who do not weigh more 
than 45 kilograms.  The Camel Racing Association enforces the 
new rules.  Otherwise, child labor is not permitted.

     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 contracts that stipulate a clearly 
unacceptable wage.

The standard workday and workweek are 8 hours a day, 6 days a 
week, but these standards are not strictly enforced.  Certain 
types of workers, notably domestic servants, may be obliged to 
work longer than the mandated standard hours.  The law also 
provides for a minimum of 24 days a year of annual leave plus 
10 national and religious holidays.  In addition, manual 
workers are not required to do outdoor work when the 
temperature exceeds 45 degrees Celsius (112 degrees Fahrenheit).

Most foreign workers receive either employer-provided housing 
or a housing allowance, medical care, and homeward passage from 
their employers.  Most foreign workers do not earn the minimum 
salary of approximately $1,370 a month required to obtain a 
residency visa for their families.  Employers have the option 
to petition for a 1-year ban from the work force against any 
foreign employee who leaves his job without fulfilling the 
terms of his contract.

The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labor and Social 
Affairs, municipalities, and civil defense units enforce health 
and safety standards.  The Government requires every large 
industrial concern to employ a certified occupational safety 
officer.  An injured worker is entitled to fair compensation.  
Health standards are not uniformly observed in the housing 
camps provided for foreign workers.  Workers' jobs are not 
protected if they remove themselves from what they consider to 
be unsafe working conditions.  However, the Ministry of Labor 
and Social Affairs may require employers to reinstate workers 
dismissed for not performing unsafe work.  All workers have the 
right to lodge grievances with ministry officials, who make an 
effort to investigate all complaints.  However, the Ministry is 
understaffed and underbudgeted so that complaints and 
compensation claims are backlogged.

Complaints may be appealed to the Ministry and ultimately to 
the courts.  However, many workers do not protest for fear of 
reprisals or deportation.  There have been reports, some 
published in the local press, of abuses suffered by domestic 
servants, particularly women, by their employers.  Allegations 
have included excessive work hours, extremely low wages, and 
verbal and physical abuse.


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[end of document]

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