“It’s no different than we were in America a hundred years ago, right after or during the end of the Victorian era,” said Hamden. “Even though we are seeing globalization, in the city that has defined globalization; we are still seeing a value system that still looks like new Victorians” (qtd. in “They destroyed me”, 2008). Victorian era is the period from 1837 to 1901. This is how Dr. Raymond Hamden, a Lebanese-American psychiatrist who works in the Dubai courts describes Dubai’s criminal justice system. He further said that although it has embraced modernization with high rise buildings and very rich economy, its criminal justice system is still an evolving one.
In criminal court, the equal protection before the law does not usually extend to foreigners. The amazing economic growth of Dubai is wholly dependent on millions of expatriates engaging actively from corporate financial executives down to construction and domestic jobs. Emiratis, representing only 10% of the total residents are not enough to meet the demands of a “double-digit economic growth” goaded by foreign investments, so even the court personnel and lawyers are foreigners.
Dubai boasts of its corporate legal system as fair and protective of foreign investors. Lawyers, however deny this fact. In Dubai, the crime of rape is termed “forced homosexuality” as UAE law does not acknowledge assault and rape of males. HIV and homosexuality are taboos and held in secret in this bustling financial center. These, result in rampant harassment of gays and foreigners. Those found to be homosexuals and infected with HIV are denied health care benefits, quarantined and subjected to deportation proceedings.
According to a Western Diplomat who is familiar with the judicial system, equality exists only in theory, not in practice. It may have strived very hard to earn a good reputation in delivering fair and speedy dispositions of commercials claims, however, it is still struggling to balance a penal code deeply rooted in conventional Islamic and Arabic culture to the damage and prejudice of overwhelming foreign residents who are largely noncitizens.
In Dubai, flogging is not a practice. Generally the government observes the Constitutional prohibition on arbitrary arrest and detention. However, in sensitive criminal cases, incommunicado detention is allowed in order not to imperil the investigation. There were complaints from diplomatic missions that they were not notified when their citizens were arrested and detained.
Accused can be questioned for days or even weeks without the assistance of legal counsel because a defendant can only avail of the services of a lawyer after police investigation has been terminated. Acquittal is based on “without the slightest doubt of guilt” In other jurisdiction, conviction is based on “guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”
In cases involving killings, bails are allowed after payment of compensation called “blood money” to the family of the victim. There is no formal system of bail. Temporary release of detainees are made only upon deposit of money or passport or through personal guarantee of a person signed in a statement.
It cannot be denied that the Criminal Justice System in Dubai and other United Arab Emirates cannot or may not cope up with the changing times. Dubai’s legal system remains a precarious challenged when it comes to homosexuality and legal protection of foreigners despite its status as the Arab world’s perfection of modernism and riches.