Country Listing

United Arab Emirates Table of Contents

United Arab Emirates

Internal Security Problems

In the past, internal dynastic rivalries within individual amirates were often sources of tension and even bloodshed. In part, this resulted from the absence of clearly established rules of succession. More recently, however, heirs apparent have usually been designated, most often the eldest son of the amir. Intra-UAE rivalries no longer take a violent form, but the continued existence of independent military forces and competition in acquiring arms bring with them a costly proliferation of weapons that complicates training and logistics.

The threat of subversion from resident Iranians and native Shia seems to be less acute in the UAE than in other gulf states in spite of the large Shia population in Dubayy. Dubayy and Sharjah have traditionally maintained good relations with Iran and enjoyed profits from maritime trade, particularly the transshipment of items officially banned in Iran to conserve foreign exchange. The UAE is not a target of Iranian terrorist attacks.

The provisional constitution authorizes federal police and security guard forces, which are subordinate to the Ministry of Interior. The strength of the police force has not been reported but is estimated as relatively large and vigilant in exercising control over political activities. Individual shaykhs had their own police forces before independence and maintained those forces after unification. Both the federal government and the amirate of Dubayy retain independent internal security organizations. The police forces of the other amirates are also involved in antinarcotic and antiterrorist activities.

Criminal cases are tried either by sharia courts administered by each amirate or by civil courts of the federal system that exist in several amirates. Rights of due process are accorded under both systems. Defendants are entitled to legal counsel. No formal public defender system exists, but the judge has responsibility for looking after the interests of persons not represented by counsel. Under the Criminal Procedures Code adopted in 1992, the accused has the right to defense counsel, provided by the government, if necessary, in cases involving possible sentence of death or life imprisonment. There are no jury trials, but trials are open except in cases involving national security or morals offenses. No separate security courts exist, and military courts try only military personnel in a system based on Western military judicial principles. According to Department of State human rights reports, the criminal court system is generally regarded as fair. Despite the lack of a formal bail system, there are instances of release on deposit of money or passport.

Detentions must be reported to the attorney general within forty-eight hours; the attorney general must decide within twenty-four hours whether to charge, release, or allow further limited detention. Most persons receive expeditious trials, although Iraqis and Palestinians had been held incommunicado in detention for one or two months in 1991. Others were being held in jail because they were unwilling or unable to return to their countries of origin.

Data as of January 1993